BROOKSVILLE — As an ambulance siren wailed, Brett Hattenbrun made the first in a series of denials about his role in his daughter-in-law's death, as recorded by deputies.
It was Sept. 27, 2011, and Hattenbrun had just tossed a Molotov cocktail at the feet of a Hernando County sheriff's sergeant who had come to search his home on Owl Road near Weeki Wachee. When Hattenbrun opened fire with a nail gun, deputies returned fire and shot him in the abdomen.
Now he was being taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa. Riding along in the back of the ambulance, Detective George Loydgren told Hattenbrun he was a suspect in Joey Hattenbrun's murder.
"Call it temporary insanity or whatever, but the poor decision you just made is exactly what I think happened with you and Joey that night," Loydgren said.
His voice calm, Hattenbrun said: "I could never do that to a person."
The exchange happened in the first 20 minutes of more than 11 hours of recorded interviews detectives conducted with Hattenbrun, now 63, after his arrest. On Thursday, the third day of his first-degree murder trial, prosecutors started playing the audio recordings.
Jurors will probably hear the last hour or so of the recordings today. At that point, prosecutors say, Hattenbrun confessed to murdering the wife of his son, Chad. He said he went to the couple's house, also on Owl Road, on the night of Sept. 16, 2011, waited for Joey to arrive home from work and confronted her about her marital problems. When she grabbed her cellphone to call police, Hattenbrun said, he beat her with a metal pipe "until she stopped screaming." He said he put on yellow dish gloves, removed her wedding ring and scattered the contents of her purse to make the attack look like a robbery. Joey Hattenbrun, 30, died at St. Joseph's that night.
Assistant Public Defender Alan Fanter told jurors this week that detectives cajoled Hattenbrun into giving a false confession and that the physical evidence doesn't support that story.
As for the firebomb and the nail gun, Fanter told jurors that Hattenbrun wanted to provoke the officers into killing him but did not intend to harm them. Hattenbrun is also being tried on two counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement forensic analyst testified Thursday that none of the blood evidence collected from Hattenbrun's home, including spots on a shirt, could be linked to Joey Hattenbrun. Investigators never found the gloves and the pipe Hattenbrun said he used. A sheriff's forensics technician went to a Winn-Dixie and bought dish gloves with bumps on the fingertips that appeared to match a pattern in bloodstains found on Joey Hattenbrun's coat. With the jury out of the courtroom Thursday, Fanter failed to convince Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. that the state shouldn't be allowed to submit evidence bought at a store.
Hattenbrun faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted of the murder or attempted murder charges.