Rowan County man accepts plea deal for 2014 rape of 5-year-old

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 16, 2018

SALISBURY — A Rowan County man whose life was saved in 2016 by local deputies after he had a heart attack while in court was wheeled out of a courtroom Thursday after accepting a plea deal on sex offense charges.

Gary Wayne Baldwin pleaded guilty to indecent liberties with a child.

Baldwin, 67, was initially charged in 2014 with raping a 5-year-old girl. He accepted an Alford plea and was given a suspended sentence that includes multiple restrictions and 36 months of supervised probation.

He is also required to register as a sex offender for 30 years.

He could have been sentenced to 16 months to two years in prison, but his sentence was suspended.

According to court testimony, the mother of the young girl, now 8 years old, allowed her daughter to go with Baldwin and his wife to Walmart to buy snacks. But prosecutors said he never took the child to the store and instead took her back to his home, where he performed a sex act.

The mother became suspicious when, after two hours, Baldwin returned with no Walmart bags. He told the mother the lines were long at the store so they left their shopping cart there.

The girl’s family was known to Baldwin, and the victim’s mother said she was hesitant to allow her daughter around him. She decided to let her go with him because Baldwin’s wife was with them.

Baldwin’s wife told investigators that she didn’t pay attention to what he did and wasn’t there when the girl was assaulted.

In a statement to a forensic interviewer at the Terrie Hess House Child Advocacy Center, the girl recalled the assault with vivid detail. A medical exam confirmed she had been sexually assaulted.

Assistant District Attorney Kristina Scally told Judge Lori Hamilton that one of the reasons the DA’s office did not proceed with a trial was to spare the victim from testifying in court. Hamilton seemed to disagree with the decision to enter into a plea agreement, saying it was against her better judgment, but she accepted the plea terms.

During a 2016 hearing in the case, Baldwin suffered a heart attack. Deputies revived him using an automated external defibrillator. He has since suffered other heart attacks and a series of strokes.

His health was one reason prosecutors said they offered a plea deal. Baldwin is now living in an unnamed nursing home.

Scally told the judge that although Baldwin was never previously convicted of a sex offense, a woman who said she was victimized by him in the 1990s heard about the recent case. The woman apologized and asked to extend an apology to the family of the victim.

Judge Hamilton said Baldwin is a potentially dangerous predator. She required that he submit DNA for a registry database; pay court costs, a $500 fine and $2,800 in attorney fees; comply with any rules set up by the nursing home; be on satellite monitoring; and have no contact with the victim.

The judge said since Baldwin cannot pay his fees and court costs as well as other associated fees, she didn’t feel right making taxpayers foot the bill. He was ordered to enroll and complete a sex abuse treatment plan; submit to random and warrantless searches; and have no access to or be near parks, schools or any place where children under 18 are present.

His probation officer said that if Baldwin cannot pay some fees associated with probation, he would be considered in violation.

Hamilton said she guessed he would be in violation starting Thursday.

She also ordered that he not travel out of the area without written approval from his probation officer and notifying law enforcement. She ruled that he cannot be a volunteer or work where children are present.

Baldwin’s attorney, David Bingham, said he is a regular churchgoer. The judge said he could not go to church if there is a day care or nursery facility there.

“I believe this man will find a way to get around,” Hamilton said.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.