Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
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Jurors in murder trial hear testimony from detectives

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BROOKSVILLE - Jurors in the murder trial of Brett Hattenbrum heard from detectives this week who said the defendant attacked them with a fire bomb and nail gun as they served a search warrant at his home. They also heard from crime scene technicians who used evidence to try to place Hannenbrum at the scene.

Hattenbrun, 63, is accused of killing his daughter-in-law Joey Lynn Hattenbrun in September 2011. Investigators believe Hattenbrun beat his the 30-year-old to death with a metal pipe because he believed she was cheating on his son, Chad, then removed her wedding and engagement rings to make the attack look like a robbery.

A little more than a week later, Brett Hattenbrun hurled a Molotov cocktail and fired nails at a sheriff's sergeant, detectives and a deputy who arrived at his home to serve a search warrant.

On Thursday, jurors heard testimony from crime scene technicians who collected evidence from Brett Hattenbrun's home after the fire bombing incident, and a DNA analyst from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Perhaps the most contentious piece of evidence Thursday morning was a pair of rubber dish gloves retrieved from Winn Dixie at the time by crime scene technician Angelique Lees.

Law enforcement say a pattern on the glove's fingertips and palm matched a pattern found on the victim's white lab coat and an oatmeal package found at the crime scene.

Defense attorney Alan Fanter argued the sheriff's office had "no foundation to go on a shopping spree," searching for a pair of gloves that matched the pattern, especially since there wasn't any evidence to show Brett Hattenbrun had purchased a pair of dish gloves.

The actual gloves used in the attack, as well as the weapon and stolen wedding rings, have never been recovered, according to testimony.

Judge Daniel Merritt Jr. allowed the gloves to be shown to the jury.

Lees also said she recovered two nails from Brett Hattenbrun's property during cross-examination. Several law enforcement officers testified Wednesday that Brett Hattenbrun continually fired a nail gun in a sweeping left to right motion after throwing the fire bomb at them.

Stephanie Schrayer, a FDLE DNA analyst, testified Joey Hattenbrun's DNA was not found on five items taken from Brett Hattenbrun, including a t-shirt and pair of shoes.

On Wednesday, multiple law enforcement officers from the Hernando County Sheriff's Office recounted serving a search warrant at Brett Hattenbrun's home, and the chaos that followed.

Sgt. Phil Lakin said he first met Brett Hattenbrun at the sheriff's office after Joey Hattenbrun's murder.

He was "friendly" and "responsive," even though detectives were questioning his possible involvement in the murder, Lakin said. "He wasn't adversarial."

On Sept. 27, it was Lakin who knocked on the door of Brett Hattenbrun's 7043 Owl Road home to serve a search warrant.

Other detectives and a deputy took positions around the property, and Lakin said he knocked on Hattenbrun's door to announce their presence.

Hattenbrun said he'd be right out, after he put some clothes on.

The man emerged from his home with a bottle filled with liquid and a flaming wick, with "rage on his face."

Lakin dove out of the way, heard a massive explosion - louder than anything he hears at the gun range - and felt flames "engulf the backside" of his body.

"I thought at that moment I was going to be burned alive," Lakin said.

After the fire bomb was thrown, Hattenbrun retrieved what Lakin thought was a rifle with a silencer and began shooting left to right with the weapon, later identified as a nail gun.

Hattenbrun didn't stop shooting until he was shot by Det. Bryan Faulkingham, according to testimony. Lakin said after the scene was cleared, he noticed Hattenbrun had placed additional glass bottles and a gas can by the front door.

Lakin said he later responded to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa to interview Hattenbrun.

"At some point he tried to apologize to me for what he did," Lakin said.

After about seven hours of denying, Lakin said he was getting ready to leave when Hattenbrun called him back to the side of his bed and said he killed his daughter-in-law and mentioned details of the crime not released to the public.

During cross-examination, Hattenbrun's attorney Alan Fanter asked Lakin if, during the hospital interview, he ever told the defendant "his family was no longer his family, that they were your witnesses," and not to contact them.

"I told them they were our victims," Lakin said, explaining the family was cooperating with the investigation.

Fanter asked both Lakin and Deputy Rosemary DeJesus if they were injured by the fire bomb or nails. Both said they did not suffer physical injuries.

The trial is expected to continue until next Tuesday.

wbiddlecombe@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5283

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