Woman says she witnessed ex-judge's relationship with addict

Knox County woman says she witnessed ex-judge's relationship with drug addict

Posted:
Former Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner Former Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner
Deena Castleman (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Deena Castleman (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)
"He was a judge, not a God," Erin McClain said. "He was a judge, not a God," Erin McClain said.

By HANA KIM
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A relationship between ex-Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner and Deena Castleman was apparently centered on addiction to prescription painkillers. It ultimately played a role in new trials for the Christian-Newsom murder case defendants.

About a year before the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation knocked on her door investigating Baumgartner, Erin McClain says she had already started asking questions. 

McClain is Castleman's former neighbor, and she says she tried to alert authorities about the suspicious relationship between Castleman and the judge.

She says starting in late 2009, Baumgartner started visiting Castleman at Grand Oaks Mobile Home Park in Powell.

"Every time he would come over, I saw him go in," McClain said.

"There were a couple of people who told me he was a judge, that he came to buy pills from her, hydrocodone at the time," McClain said.

McClain had a reason to keep an eye on Castleman after she was charged with burglarizing a neighbor's home.

Not only was McClain a witness, she also called law enforcement and told them where Castleman was when a warrant was issued for her arrest.

A short time later, McClain says Baumgartner arrived. "I called them back and said the judge just showed up," McClain said.

Authorities never spotted Baumgartner that day. "They almost had to pass each other, him leaving, cops coming, literally just that close," McClain said.

She says she saw Castleman with Baumgartner not only at her home, but also at Baumgartner's work at the City County building on a breezeway.  At the time, Castleman was in court for a burglary charge.

"Like nothing mattered, their relationship was out in the open," McClain said. "It was hard for me to believe he will let that happen."

She says the whole thing made her angry, a judge who was exactly the same as some of the criminals in his own court.

It was only later that McClain learned Baumgartner was the judge presiding over the Christian-Newsom murder trials.

"Especially in the Christian-Newsom trial, you'd think he could have recused himself," McClain said.

She believes she was just one of many who possibly knew about Castleman supplying the ex-judge with pills and sex.

McClain says she's upset more people didn't come forward a long time ago. "He was a judge, not a God," she said.

Castleman is behind bars on criminal charges.

6 News has been unable to get a comment from Baumgartner since last week.

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