updated 6/18/2009 12:29:05 PM ET 2009-06-18T16:29:05

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a 21-year-old man accused of throwing his ex-girlfriend's baby out of a car on a Florida highway, killing the infant.

Richard McTear Jr. has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other charges.

Assistant State Attorney Jalal Harb told a court hearing Wednesday that the state will pursue the death penalty if McTear is convicted.

Prosecutors say McTear argued with his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend, Jasmine Bedwell, in May and threw the infant down on concrete. They say McTear then grabbed 4-month-old Emanuel Wesley Murray, drove off in his Chevrolet Impala with the child and threw him out of the car on a highway north of downtown Tampa. McTear is not the child's father.

The child was found on the roadside by a journalist.

Jason Bird, a news photographer for WTVT-TV in Tampa, spotted the baby’s body on his way to work at about 4:30 a.m. on May 5.

“On the side of the road, I saw something out of the corner of my eye and at first I thought it was a baby doll, and then as I was thinking about it more I thought that was awfully big for a doll,” Bird said in an earlier interview.

Earlier arrest
McTear has previously been arrested on charges including felony battery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and domestic battery by strangulation. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, McTear was sentenced to two years probation in June 2008 on a felony battery conviction. An arrest warrant was issued when he failed to report.

Last month, Bedwell sought an injunction against McTear for domestic violence, but the case was dropped because she didn’t appear in court.

In court papers, Bedwell said McTear was violent, often armed and had a drug problem. She said he had forced his way into her apartment and beat her.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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