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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Testimony begins in first-degree murder trial of Hernando man


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BROOKSVILLE - Chad Hattenbrun started choking up on the stand when Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto asked how he and his late wife, Joey Lynn Hattenbrun, were working on their marriage before her 2011 murder.

"She said that we didn't see as much of each other as we used to when we started out. I told her she was right, I told her we'd try to do what we had to do, make it right, reconnect," Chad Hattenbrun said.

They had a great time at an all expenses paid football game, Chad Hattenbrun said, and worked on repairing the distance that came with working opposite shifts - a coordinated effort to care for their 3-year-old son and not have to put him in day care. He vowed to get rid of the merchandise that was piling up from his position as a beer distributor.

At some point he told his father, Brett Hattenbrun, about the issues in their marriage. Chad Hattenbrun was concerned about his wife texting with another man she met online.

These "marital issues" were the reason Brett Hattenbrun confronted Joey as she got out of her car after coming home from work, said Assistant State Attorney Richard Buxman during his opening statement Tuesday morning.

Buxman said Brett Hattenbrun went to his son and daughter-in-law's home because he knew Chad and his son, Bradley, were out at a party, and that Joey would be alone. He parked his car in a secluded area, Buxman said, waited for her to come home and confronted her because he thought she was cheating on his son.

They "had words," Buxman said, and when Joey Hattenbrun took out her phone to call the police, Brett Hattenbrun knocked the phone out of her hand, put his hand over her mouth to stop her from screaming and hit her with a metal pipe.

"Joey screamed in pain, she screamed in fear," Buxman said. "The defendant hit her again ..."

Buxman said Brett Hattenbrun continued hitting her in the head, neck and arms until she fell on the ground and stopped screaming.

"The evidence will show this was not some impulsive act, not an encounter gone bad. This was something that was planned, because he was angry at her, planned to the point he brought his own gloves," the prosecutor said

Buxman said Brett Hattenbrun put on a pair of dish gloves, removed Joey Hattenbrun's wedding rings and dumped out her purse to make the scene look like a robbery.

He then took the pipe and gloves and threw them out in a dumpster behind Tire Kingdom, where he used to work, and stopped at Arby's for a roast beef sandwich and a milkshake, Buxman said.

He was back on Owl Road by the time Joey Hattenbrun was discovered, bleeding and gasping for breath, according to court documents. She died after being taken to St. Joseph's Hospital.

More than a week later, when the defendant hurled a fire bomb and shot rounds of nails at sheriff's detectives serving a search warrant at his home, Brett Hattenbrun was equally prepared. Buxman said Hattenbrun placed the materials for Molotov cocktails by the front door of his house.

"The evidence will show the defendant was clearly ready for this day," Buxman said. "The evidence will show the defendant was not prepared to go easily."

Buxman also told jurors about Brett Hattenbrun's confession at St. Joseph's Hospital, when, after hours of denying being involved in Joey Hattenbrun's death, he told Sgt. Phil Lakin and two detectives "I just basically hit her until she stopped screaming."

In the defense's opening, Alan Fanter told jurors Brett Hattenbrun was "relentless(ly)" pursued by law enforcement as a suspect in the days following his daughter-in-law's murder.

They isolated him, and separated him from his family, Fanter said, even after Brett Hattenbrun allowed them to search his home and car, and gave a voluntary interview.

Brett Hattenbrun had been up all night, sleeping on his floor with a sick dog, when sheriff's detectives arrived on the morning of Sept. 27, 2011, banging on the door to execute the warrant.

"At this point . he snaps. The pressure gets to him, no question," Fanter said.

Fanter said Hattenbrun next "makes a little firebomb" and "pitches it" out the door.

Fanter said Hattenbrun, who at one time worked as a corrections officer, didn't want to hurt anyone, but wanted to be killed by law enforcement.

According to Fanter, Brett Hattenbrun's confession was "bogus," and coerced out of him after about 14 hours of interrogations while he was in the hospital, and being treated for a gunshot wound to the stomach after he was shot in the belly by a sheriff's detective.

"He's not guilty of what he's charged," Fanter said.

Jurors also heard the 911 call placed by witness Mark Burnett after finding Joey Hattenbrun with Chad Hattenbrun and his son.

The boy can be heard in the background saying "Mommy's knocked out."

Owl Road neighbor Raymond Baswell testified about an encounter he had with Brett Hattenbrun about five or six days after the murder. Brett Hattenbrun walked up his driveway, showed him a small revolver strapped to his ankle and said he was a suspect by law enforcement but "ready for 'em."

On Monday, 12 jurors and two alternates were selected. The trial is expected to carry on throughout the week, and possibly into next week.

Hattenbrun is facing life in prison if convicted.

(352) 544-5283

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