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,
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.
When Desiree received three text messages on her cell phone claiming to be Jenna she felt relief.
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:
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?"
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.”
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Baldwin told him Jenna had woken him by shouting and banging the front door while he was trying to sleep.
When he realized she was hurt, Bonar said:
Baldwin, a former Territorial Army soldier, told the court Jenna changed when she was 12 or 13.
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.
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:
He established how he swung with his right arm and caught her. She toppled down the stairs backwards.
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.
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.
Baldwin telephoned his 10-year-old son pretending to be Jenna.
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:
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.
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."
Murphy stressed Baldwin was on trial for murder.
At the end of a seven-week trial, Judge Griffiths Williams told the jury:
The jury of eight men and four women took six hours over two-days to reach a guilty verdict.
Mike Baldwin received a life sentence for murder.
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