Lawrence Dickey told a jury Tuesday he was too drunk to remember fatally clubbing his wife with an aluminum bat in their bedroom.
But his young children remember.
Only days before Christmas, three children of a blended Plant City family marched to the witness stand to describe the violent death last year that blew up their lives.
"I heard three whacks," said Lawson Dickey, now 13.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys agree that Lawson had just heard his father, Dickey, 46, drunkenly attack his wife Beatrice, Lawson's stepmother, as she lay in bed.
Lawrence Dickey is on trial this week for first-degree premeditated murder. His wife of four years headed the Office of Business Affairs for the Polk County Sheriff's Office. They each brought two children to the marriage. His son, Lawson, and daughter, Taylor, and her son, Dillon, were at home that night.
Defense attorney Greg Hill argued that the attack "falls somewhere between accidental and deliberate."
Whatever it was, the children described a horror.
The couple had been to a Journey concert on the night of Sept. 17, 2011 at the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre, where Dickey said he got drunk and made a fool of himself.
Dickey, crying during his testimony Tuesday afternoon, said he had worked a 12-hour shift as a Walmart loss prevention officer that day. He said he drank three beers before going to the concert, then four more while tailgating in the concert parking lot.
After the concert started, he said, he downed two more beers and two shots of tequila. Then he fell into a mud puddle and slid down a hill toward the outdoor stage, where he threw his shoes away.
From there, he said, he wandered back to the parking lot and drank two more beers. His wife found him at the car.
"When she came back to the car," Dickey testified, "I told her I was sorry for ruining the concert. She said, 'I'm tired. I want to go home.'"
That's all he said he could remember, until he found himself standing at the edge of their bed.
"She was lying there, blood coming out of her head," he testified in a choked voice. "My softball bat was laying next to her."
Two of his children filled in the gaps.
His daughter, Taylor, then 16, said her stepmother had just come by her bedroom, complaining that Dickey was drunk and "she would try to control him."
Meanwhile, Dickey was in the living room, waking his son, Lawson, sleeping on the couch. Lawson said his father spoke sentimentally about the boy's biological mother, calling her an angel. "She'll guide you through everything," the father promised.
Lawson said Dickey then went to the garage, retrieved a bat and headed for the bedroom.
After the attack, the children said, they heard the sound of screeching tires as Dickey drove away.
A third child, Dillon Kirkland, Beatrice Dickey's son, then 17, called 911 after Taylor ran for help from the bedroom.
They were unaware that Dickey had driven himself to a Plant City police substation, where, clothed in only gym shorts, he approached a police officer.
According to testimony, he told the officer, "Lock me up. I just beat my wife with a bat and she's hurt real bad."
Moments later, Dickey told a Plant City detective, "This is not me. Lord please forgive me. (Polk County Sheriff) Grady Judd drove me to this."
Dickey never explained what he meant. In a statement, Judd said he would wait until the trial ends to comment.
The defense and prosecution will offer closing arguments this morning.
John Barry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3383.