Abersychan, Wales Police in were concerned about Jenna Baldwin, 15 year old Abersychan Comprehensive School student last seen wearing blue Adidas tracksuit bottoms, a white jacket, and Adidas shoes. The eldest of three Jenna, children was an excellent student but she had new friends and was dreading school and an impending move. Mike Baldwin, 36, Jenna’s stepfather, a night shift security guard at a chicken-processing factory, was the last person to see her.
September 9, 2002, Baldwin told Desiree, Jenna’s mother, a personnel officer, Jenna phoned to say she was with a friend, but he didn’t think to ask who her friend was. Desiree was relieved until she realized the phone that the call allegedly came in on was not plugged in.
Gwent Police Chief Inspector, John Oliver said, "We are concerned because a man has rung Jenna's school since she disappeared to say that Jenna was sorry for the worry she was causing but she was staying with a female friend and would be returning home within seven day. Jenna was at an age where she clashed with her mother over school and the company she was keeping. We just want Jenna to contact her family or the police to say she is safe."
September 25, 2002, Jenna's mother, launched a poster campaign pleading for information. Chief Oliver said police "feared the worst.”
Baldwin was being monitored by covert surveillance as he purchased a cell phone registered with bogus information and tracing paper to copy Jenna’s handwriting. He sent text messages and a letter from Jenna to Desiree and phoned his 10-year-old son under the pretense of being his missing sister,
"Mam, the police are not very good are they? Don't be worried, I'm OK, I saw it on TV. Tell the police to leave me alone, I'm OK."
By October 17 2002, after a series of five phone calls, four were silent but the fifth call, answered by Jenna's 10-year-old half brother, was a faint voice claiming to be Jenna in a whisper, and apologizing.
"We are not 100% sure it was Jenna but we hope it was. We need her to call again; I need to hear her voice. I need to be convinced it was her (…) this is a terrible time for all of us," said Jenna’s mother, a personnel officer, unable to work since Jenna’s disappearance. I just want her to come home. I want her to know that we are sorry for anything she was unhappy about. We need to know that she is all right and then we can go from there. We all just need her to call us to let us know she is ok.”
Chief Oliver believed the sender had personal knowledge of the family.
"We still have to consider the possibility that she has come to some harm (…) our current lines of inquiry and searches will continue. The telephone calls made have given hope to everyone involved in this investigation. But (…) we can't be certain the caller is Jenna."
When Desiree received three text messages on her cell phone claiming to be Jenna she felt relief.
"The grammar was atrocious, and Jenna was a star pupil at English. Jenna used to text me a lot and the style of the texts was different to how she would normally write. The texts helped me to believe she might be OK - I thought she was alive - I felt elated. I thought she was maybe being drugged or held against her will.”
Desiree asked for proof Jenna was still alive, and received her ring. Later Baldwin's DNA was found on the ring and envelope.
Detectives pronounced the three text messages and phone calls a “cruel hoax” on October 21, 2002. Jenna's brother, who answered a call, did not think it was Jenna, said Chief Oliver. "I am still appealing to Jenna to make contact with her mum or with officers …” Chief Oliver made an appeal to Jenna October 24, 2002, since a new text message was received by her mother.
Baldwin was taken into police custody in connection with Jenna's disappearance on October 29, though her situation is still unknown. At the police station, Baldwin chewed up a SIM card (cell phone's memory).
November 2, Baldwin was charged with murder. Eventually he admitted to Desiree that during an argument he killed Jenna when she accidentally fell down the stairs. Desiree begged him to divulge Jenna's location, so she could properly be laid to rest. November 18, 2002, senior crime officers, forensic archaeologists, and search teams closed off a main road to search Fiddler's Elbow, a scenic wooded area, eight miles from home. Twelve weeks after Jenna’s death, Baldwin took police to a mountainside, woodland where a shallow grave held Jenna's body.
A passerby, Andrea Evans saw Baldwin standing where Jenna’s body was found near a Ford Fiesta with an open hatchback containing a flowery duvet material in "a mound in the back of the car.” Another witness reported a man carrying a shovel.
In the early morning, of November 19, 2002, detectives discovered Jenna's remains. As police took Desiree to the wooded area, where Jenna was found, officers stopped working to pay tribute to Jenna. Chief Oliver explained:
"We felt it was important for Jenna's mother to have the opportunity to visit the area. She spent a moment there in private. Everything came to a halt as a mark of respect. The events of this week have brought to a close the endless wait for Desiree Baldwin, her family and friends. Even though this is a tragic conclusion, Desiree's mind is now at rest and she is able to grieve for her daughter."
A post mortem examination on November 20, 2002, identified Jenna by dental records but did not divulge a cause of death. A ring belonging to Jenna was found in the grave .
Jenna's white coffin covered in red roses was takenfrom her mother’s home by hearse to Abersychan Trinity Methodist Church. Her school closed to 10th and 11th year students for the funeral and classmates wore bright colors and played her favorite songs before burial at Panteg cemetery. Jenna’s natural father, Nigel Brookfield, 42, of Abergavenny, attended the funeral. The headstone on her grave will read "Jenna Brookfield."
On December 6, 2002, an inquest hearing into Jenna's death opened and adjourned on December 9, 2002.
On June 10, 2003, the trial of Michael Baldwin began. Cardiff Crown Court heard how Jenna vanished in the clothes was found in and how Baldwin deceived his grief-stricken family.
While Desiree appealed to the media, the public, searched, and posted flyers Baldwin was seemingly unscathed said Prosecutor David Aubrey
Desiree described Baldwin’s behavior towards Jenna as "spiteful” but Jenna "loved him as a father.” During the summer, he was irate that Jenna watched music channels at night, slept late, and got up at noon or 1 pm to see friends. Jenna’s noise bothered him when he was trying to sleep. Baldwin was also upset because he was losing his hair, but Jenna teased him knowing it annoyed him.
Baldwin admitted he knocked Jenna down the stairs during an argument between September 3 and 11, 2002. Panicking he wrapped her in her a duvet and buried her using a shovel kept in his car. He covered up her death by falsely registering a cell phone to send text messages to family members using secret nicknames (but they were spelled wrong.)
Aubrey said Baldwin convinced himself if he said her death was an accident things would be easier for him.
Olive Brookfield, the mother of Jenna's natural father, Nigel Brookfield, testified Jenna told her she hated Baldwin and that after she was missing, Baldwin told her the police were given them a "hard time," and that "they should be out looking for her instead of questioning us."
Nigel Brookfield, Jenna's natural father received two calls with sniffing sounds after Jenna disappeared. When asked if he thought it was Jenna, he responded, "No, she would have said something." Brookfield tried to trace the number but it was withheld. He replied to the text to see if the message was from Jenna. "I sent a message saying, 'I love you and want to see you. I want to know that you are OK."
Peter Murphy, Baldwin’s defense attorney, asked Desiree if, "He would hit his children and you would not let him hit Jenna?"
"That was the way Mike had been brought up and the way he thought they should be disciplined. There was not very much I could do about it, he was their dad. ... The children were afraid of him. He was the strongest person in the house," said Desiree.
Jenna was not allowed a key because it would disturb Baldwin if she came home with friends. Merna Boucher, who lived close, testified she heard Jenna shout at her Baldwin, while beating at the front door and window to be let in. She heard Jenna say, "You won't be laughing when I tell mam.”
"I said, 'Jenna was in good voice, her language was terrible.’ He said, 'yes, she wanted to come in to the house but I was laughing at her. She should have been in school.’"
A teenage friend of Jenna’s saw Baldwin push her down the stairs during an argument. A police video of the 16-year-old recounted how an argument escalated after Jenna slapped her younger sister. Baldwin confronted , he slapped her in the face then threw her down the stairs.
"She went `Give me money or else I'm going to tell Mum you've been hitting me'. And he goes `Yeah, right', and he wouldn't give her any and she kept on `I will tell her and you'll be out of this house'. So he gave her a tenner and then she went out and bought fags and drink out of that."
Christopher Jones, 21, was in an "intermittent relationship" with Jenna since she was 13. She stayed with him after fights at home. Once Jenna’s parents came to his sister's home looking for Jenna.
"Mike was shouting. I can remember him saying he wanted to break my legs. Jenna was in the garden and Mike came, grabbed her by the neck, and dragged her off.”
Jones said Jenna introduced him to amphetamines and she regularly used the drugs. September, 4 the last time he saw Jenna she was lying on the patio at her home. During cross-examination, Murphy asked if the relationship was a problem for the Baldwin’s, "Yes." he replied.
At one point after the family had moved, Baldwin returned to the cottage where the family lived when Jenna disappeared to gather mail. He told Susanne Clifford, the new resident, police were trying to "fit him up." Clifford claimed, "He told me Jenna hadn't been found. He said his wife Desiree was devastated." When a news report came on the television, he became angry, “Baldwin pointed at the policeman on the screen and went off, “They're trying to fit me up." I told him, "Don't be so soft, the truth will come out when Jenna is found.
A reporter, Miss Humphries described Baldwin after his public plea for his stepdaughter, off the air:
"During the interview Baldwin said he wanted her to come home. He said there hadn't been any major rows and said how much he missed Jenna and would like her to come home. But after the interview he complained bitterly of the "trouble,” Jenna caused at home. Baldwin said Jenna had always been trouble and her going missing was a real inconvenience. He said, 'That's teenagers for you, she's nothing but trouble.’ Baldwin used words to the effect of ‘it is much quieter at home now she is gone.... She really used to wind me up'."
Forensic archaeologist, Barrie Simpson, from Birmingham University described how Baldwin pointed to the shallow grave covered in branches and stones when taken to the crime scene.
Mark Dando, a witness serving a five-year sentence in an unrelated crime, testified that Baldwin confessed to him that he hit Jenna after she said she was pregnant. Dando said Baldwin claimed the baby was his. But under cross-examination, he withdrew the statement. He told the jury they were talking about Jenna's disappearance when Baldwin said the argument centered on her pregnancy.
"Mike said he had done it because she was winding him up. He said they were having an affair and that is when it all started. He said the main argument started when she said she was pregnant and that's when he hit her." Dando told the jury he had re-enacted how he struck Jenna on the side of her neck with his hand and heard "a crack. “He said she got what she deserved and that she was a pain the arse. He said she always used to pick on him and wind him up for no reason."
Baldwin told Stephen Bonar, the psychiatric nurse at Parc Prison in Bridgend, he killed Jenna by knocking her down the stairs. Bonar said Baldwin wept saying his wife would never forgive him.
"He was very upset and crying and said it should never have happened and that he should have walked away. Mike said Jenna wound him up and he should have just bitten his lip and controlled himself, but he didn't."
Baldwin told him Jenna had woken him by shouting and banging the front door while he was trying to sleep.
"He kept saying it would never have happened if he had worked days and not nights. Mike explained how he came out of the bathroom and Jenna was standing at the top of the stairs shouting abuse at him and having a dig at him. He turned and swiped, and showed me how he swiped out at Jenna with his left hand. Mike said he caught Jenna across the face and the next thing he knew she was at the bottom of the stairs." Baldwin told the nurse he thought Jenna was "joking around."
When he realized she was hurt, Bonar said:
"Mike said he put her in the front seat and drove around for a while. Then he realized how serious it was and pulled into a lay-by where he sat with his head in his hands crying. He saw some trees and bushes and he said he carried Jenna into them and buried her there. Mike told me he was concerned about the effect it would all have on his mother and that his wife would never forgive him. He also told me he was worried about whether he would be allowed to see his other children again."
Baldwin, a former Territorial Army soldier, told the court Jenna changed when she was 12 or 13.
"It was terrible - it was a nightmare, she was swearing, hitting [her mother] and hitting her brother and sister. She just wouldn't listen - she didn't go to school and she kept running away."
Baldwin denied hitting Jenna but admitted he pushed past her, "but not to hurt her.” He testified his wife would throw him out if he hit Jenna. Baldwin said she made fun of his balding, and he was very sensitive about it.
"When I first started losing my hair, I was a bit sensitive and I wouldn't take my hat off. People would laugh at me; I was a bit sensitive but not a great deal. Jenna would call me names. "At first it was a laugh and a joke but then she started getting nasty. I was not happy about it but I couldn't do anything. I would shout at her and tell her off but it didn't get me anywhere and she would laugh at me."
He told how he had to let her in late at night, she started "ranting and raving" at him as he climbed the stairs to go to bed. "He said:
" 'She was poking me in the back. I didn't answer her - my concern was to go back to bed. I was turning the corner and I thought she was going to swear again so I turned round and just pushed her off me. But I struck her to the chest. It was just reaction to her poking the back of my neck. I didn't realize how close she was behind me'."
He established how he swung with his right arm and caught her. She toppled down the stairs backwards.
"She went down so quickly that by the time I turned round she was at the bottom. It was quite a bang. All I heard was the noise. I panicked - I didn't know what to do. I put her in the recovery position and checked for breathing. There were puffing noises coming from her body. I thought it was like she was breathing."
He wrapped her in a duvet and put her in his car to take her to the Hospital. "When she was puffing I had hope she was still breathing. I was shaking her trying to wake her but she was just lying there as if she was asleep in the car. I was trying to talk to her but the puffing had stopped. I saw a lay-by and I pulled in there and I was thinking, 'What am I going to do?' I was crying, wondering what to do for the best." He searched Fiddler's Elbow for a soft patch of land. He dug a hole with his hands and a shovel he kept in the car.
"The ground was easy to move. Most of it was done with my hands. I went back to the car where Jenna was sat up and I shook her again, saying 'wake up'. But then I took her across to the hole and put her in." He covered it up with stones, branches, and twigs. "I did it so people could not see her. After that, I went back to the car and sat in it for a couple of minutes crying. But there were cars going up and down so I decided to go before anybody saw me."
Baldwin admitted he lied to tell his wife, saying that Jenna was with a friend one day when she was missing. "If I said she was back with another girl, she [Desiree] would not ask me questions." He agreed that he manipulated his wife. He lied pretending Jenna was alive, "Because of what I had done. I couldn't tell her what had happened. I didn't have the guts to tell her."
Baldwin said he had considered Jenna to be his own daughter. "I was scared and I was panicking, I didn't know what to do. I was scared Des wouldn't believe what had happened."
Baldwin made telephone calls and sent text messages asserting to be from Jenna.
"I just wanted to pretend she had just run away after what happened on the stairs. I just thought it would make people think she was still alive."
Baldwin telephoned his 10-year-old son pretending to be Jenna.
Aubrey asked Baldwin, "How did you feel about deliberately and cynically using him in the way you did?"
Baldwin replied: "Terrible."
Baldwin admits deliberately hitting Jenna but that her subsequent fall down the stairs was accidental. Prosecution alleges that is impossible because the landing is too narrow, the defendant would have hit the wall. Baldwin responsed to the accusation of having an affair with Jenna:
"You're joking, aren't you? We couldn't stand each other, she couldn't stand me, and I couldn't stand her. She didn't like doing what she was told - she wouldn't do anything."
Baldwin claims she died September 10, the prosecution claims she died days earlier. She was last seen alive on September 5; Baldwin bought a shovel on September 6 to replace a fence at the house they buying, he said. During a police interview, he denied sending messages saying they came from, "some sicko messing about. Are you saying I am a sicko or something? Do you think I would do that to my wife and kids?" he said.
When Baldwin was asked if he considered the "dreadful possibility" Jenna might have been buried alive, responded with, ”I thought she wasn't."
"Did you check thoroughly to ensure she was dead? Did you check her breathing, her pulse? Did you care enough to check that she really was dead? Aubrey asked
I should have done a lot of things," said Baldwin who is trained in first aid but did not attempted to resuscitate Jenna, then dug her grave using a shovel and his bare hands. He denied strangling her or cleaning her body with bleach to remove evidence.
The prosecution contended Baldwin was " a skilled liar … Chosen to tell you a series of lies because he cannot afford to tell the truth, because he murdered her." Aubrey said Baldwin "took true facts and weaved in his lies to bring them to life.”
Baldwin claims Jenna died after she punched him in the back of the neck and he swung out at her. But the stairs and landing were too narrow for Jenna to be knocked backwards. He a 5’ 11”, experienced in judo feeling threatened by a 5’ 6” teenage girl was illogical.
Baldwin did not attempt to resuscitate Jenna, despite being certified in CPR. Baldwin did not seek help and or check to see if she was alive before burying he.
"This is not the action of a man who is panicking or responding because he accidentally killed his daughter or killed her when he lashed out because she provoked him." Aubrey said.
When interviewed by police, Baldwin had no answer to questions about sexual involvement with his stepdaughter.
Baldwin's cellmate, Mark Dando, alleged he confessed to having an affair with Jenna. Baldwin denies ever speaking to Dando yet Dando knew Baldwin camouflaged the grave before forensics. He could only have known this from Baldwin.
Aubrey said, "It was murder - nothing less and nothing else."
Defense attorney, Peter Murphy said, the blow was an "instinctive reaction, which was both fast-moving and unexpected."
Murphy stressed Baldwin was on trial for murder.
"You have heard much about lies but it is important to remember that the defendant is not on trial for lying, but for murder. “ Mr. Baldwin was like the little boy who cried wolf. When he finally told the truth, no one believed him."
At the end of a seven-week trial, Judge Griffiths Williams told the jury:
"The prosecution case is that Baldwin is a skilled liar who craftily and cleverly constructed his lies. But the defense says you should not place undue unfair emphasis on the lies. The defense say Baldwin's deception of his wife and the police does not help in determining whether he was guilty or not." Summing up the case he told the jury, "When a life is lost, particularly one of a pretty girl whose life was full of promise, there is always sympathy for the deceased and the family. But you will put such sympathy out of your mind and approach the evidence objectively."
The jury of eight men and four women took six hours over two-days to reach a guilty verdict.
Desiree said, "I have now discovered that this man is not only a liar and a deceitful person, but he has shown absolutely no remorse for the terrible act he has committed.”
Mike Baldwin received a life sentence for murder.
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