Originally created 01/19/01

Judge grants bond to slaying suspect



AIKEN - A judge granted bond Thursday on an unrelated burglary charge to the lead suspect in the Jessica Carpenter slaying, allowing the Aiken man the possibility of posting bond and walking out of jail.

With bonds already set in nine other pending charges, Tonnie Nathaniel Baldwin could be released from custody if he can meet requirements of bonds totaling $157,850. Bonding companies usually charge 10 percent of the bond, meaning Mr. Baldwin would have to raise $15,785 to go free until trial.

Mr. Baldwin remained in the Aiken County Detention Center on Thursday night, jail officials said.

If DNA samples taken from Mr. Baldwin match semen found at the Carpenter crime scnee, the 23-year-old could be charged with murder. A judge then could order the suspect held without bond.

Craig Gantt, who is in prison on a parole violation, told Aiken police last week that Mr. Baldwin confessed to killing Ms. Carpenter on Aug. 4. Judge Barber agreed Tuesday to allow investigators to take blood, hair and saliva from Mr. Baldwin to get a DNA sample and make the comparisons. An answer could come as early as today.

On Thursday, jail officials took Mr. Baldwin to the AIken County Courthouse, where Ciruit Judge James R. Barber III set bond at $25,000 on a first-degree burglary charge. That charge stemmed from an Oct. 29 armed robbery at the Royal Inn of Aiken, when two people broke into an occupied hotel room, covered the heads of a couple inside, robbed the pair and sexually assaulted the female guest.

Authorities also obtained a fresh set of fingerprints from Mr. Baldwin on Thursday. He has been in jail since Oct. 29, charged in a six-month crime spree that included armed robbery, assault, failure to stop for a blue light, and pointing and presenting a weapon. He has since been charged in several fights that occurred at the detention center.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 648-1395 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.