HOMICIDE SUSPECT HAD BEEN IN CUSTODY FOLLOWING SHOOTING

Court documents show Baldwin had been taken in for questioning but don't explain release. Now Belton Police ask public to help find "armed and dangerous" suspect.


By Allen Edmonds

allen@northcassherald.com


Belton police appealed for help from the public this week in finding a man that had been taken by detectives to the station for questioning after a Friday morning homicide outside the Spring Valley apartment where he had been living with the mother of his child.


Charles E. Baldwin Jr., 38, was charged on Tuesday with second-degree murder along with a host of other charges in connection with the shooting death of Christopher D. Bell, 39, of Lee’s Summit. The shooting occurred outside an apartment in the 8200 block of Spring Valley Road.


According to a Belton Police news release issued Tuesday afternoon announcing charges, Baldwin should be considered “armed and dangerous,” and “is not in custody yet,” but according to court documents, Baldwin was transported to the Belton police station along with Nicole Hobbs, 30, from the apartment they shared on Friday afternoon. Hobbs was held and now faces drug charges, but Baldwin was released and police haven't responded to inquiries.


Police sent out a news release on Monday morning naming Baldwin as a "person of interest" and asking for the public's help in finding him, describing him as "6 feet 0 inches tall, 160 pounds and has distinctive tattoos on his neck and face to include “GUCCI” over his right eye. Mr. Baldwin is believed to be driving a red BMW sedan with unknown license plates. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Mr. Baldwin is asked to call the Belton Police Department at 816-331-1500 or the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS."


Hobbs at first only admitted she lived with Baldwin and that the two had a child in common in discussions Friday afternoon. She, as well as Baldwin, told officers in separate conversations that they were unaware of gunshots outside their apartment the night before, and that they had gone to bed around 10 p.m. Thursday night, Feb. 11, approximately two and a half hours before the shooting.


Hobbs declined to talk further with officers without an attorney and refused to allow a search of her apartment without a warrant.


The warrant was obtained and officers found two pistols, a digital scale, several glass smoking pipes of various shapes and sizes, apparent methamphetamine residue, a shoulder holster for a pistol, and boxes of .40 caliber ammunition.


One of the pistols came back as stolen from an address in Independence.


Additionally, officers recovered a backpack that was secured with a combination lock.

After a second search warrant was obtained for the backpack, officers found a gallon plastic bag containing in excess of three pounds of a white crystal-like substance believed to be methamphetamine, as well as another digital scale, a small plastic bag containing a substance also believed to be methamphetamine, a clear plastic bag containing marijuana and a clear plastic bag containing a white crystal-like substance believed to be cocaine. Later tests confirmed the identification of the substances, court documents said.


Meanwhile, Hobbs, who was still being held in the Belton jail, agreed to speak with a detective when contacted on Sunday morning.


Documents did not explain why she was still being held on Sunday, but Baldwin was not, and emails to Lt. Dan Davis and Chief James Person on Thursday went unanswered.


Hobbs was charged in Cass County Circuit Court on Tuesday with felony counts of drug trafficking and unlawful use of a weapon.


She told officers that she was awakened shortly after midnight Thursday night by a man she knew as “Stem,” later identified as Joshua R. Clifton, 40, of Lee’s Summit, standing in the doorway of her bedroom.


She said Baldwin was not in bed with her, though he had been when she went to sleep earlier. She said she and Clifton had a “brief conversation,” then Clifton left the apartment.


She told officers she did not leave the apartment, but a short time later, she heard three or four gunshots, then another two shots. She said that sometime after the gunfire, Baldwin returned to bed with her and told her “everything would be alright,” according to court documents.


On Saturday night, detectives arrested Clifton, who told officers he owed Baldwin approximately $1,800 for methamphetamine.


He told detectives that he and Bell intended to rob Baldwin, “because they knew he had money.”


Clifton told officers they drove Bell’s vehicle to the Belton apartment of Hobbs and Baldwin.

He said when they arrived, he went to the apartment and spoke with Hobbs, leaving Bell and Baldwin outside. When Clifton left the apartment, he told officers he was told by Baldwin that Bell had just robbed him. He said when we walked in the direction of Bell’s car, Baldwin began shooting in the direction of the car.


He told officers he ran to the front of the car, which had been backed into its parking space, in an attempt to avoid the gunshots, then got into the car and told Bell to go.


Then, he said, he noticed that Bell was dead in the driver’s seat.


Clifton said he got out of the car and ran around to the other side, pulling Bell’s body from the seat and leaving it in the parking lot before driving away. He told officers he “hid” the car, which was later found with a bullet hole in the rear driver’s side door and two gouge marks in the roof, possibly from bullets, in an apartment complex parking lot in Independence after leaving Belton on “back roads” to avoid police.


Clifton was arrested Saturday night in Lee’s Summit and charged Tuesday in Cass County Circuit Court with robbery, second-degree murder, armed criminal action, and unlawful possession of a firearm.