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Son testifies against father in murder trial

TAMPA — He is in the seventh grade, the witness testified.

His favorite subject is P.E.

And as his dad beat his mom so badly she would later die, the boy did all he could to save her:

"I hit him with my Nerf gun. I was trying to get him to stop. . . .

"I put him in a headlock. I got him there for, like, a couple seconds and then I let go.

"I couldn't hold him down."

The boy's memory is the state's only eyewitness account of what happened in a Lutz bedroom the night of May 25, 2011.

Lixin Tian, 43, died in hospice weeks later. Her husband Chunping Lin, 46, is on trial, charged with second-degree murder.

The boy was 10 that night. He slept beside his mother because he was scared of monsters.

His father, who had his own bed near the kitchen, came in drunk and yelling, the boy remembers, slurring in his native Mandarin about missing money.

They owned a nearby restaurant called Joy of Tokyo and had sold a property in New York. Lin accused his wife of hiding money. She accused workers of taking it.

The boy said he watched his father slap his mother, then start punching her in the back of her head. The boy said he watched his mother push Lin off at first, but as the blows continued, her arms remained by her sides.

Do you know, a prosecutor asked, whether she was crying?

The boy responded yes.

The 12-year-old appeared out of place in a murder trial, fidgeting in the swivel chair. He stole glances at his father.

The boy was not visibly upset by the things he was saying in court. But in the 911 call jurors later heard, the boy's howling pleas for help were almost unintelligible.

"Hurry up!" he screamed.

"Hurry up, please!

"I'm bleeding!"

In an attempt to stop his father, the boy said he had thrown a glass of water, which shattered. His finger was cut so deep, the boy's blood was all over the house, on his mother's shirt, his father's shirt and his toy gun.

"My finger is bleeding!"

In a tone prosecutors would later criticize, the operator told the boy he was wasting time and to calm down. But the boy can be heard screaming, "Oh, my God!"

"Who else is with you?" the operator asked. But the line was open, the boy gone.

For the next several minutes, the call records screeching, crying, coughing and what could be interpreted as banging.

One of the only words decipherable is "Mommy."

The boy testified he ran upstairs to summon his 19-year-old half-brother, Boyu Zhang. Then, he ran back to the bedroom, where his mother was on the floor and his father, he said, was still punching her head.

"I pushed my dad," the boy testified, "so he could get off."

His mother was able to get away, and she and the boy ran out of the house. His brother was in his car, ready to go.

His mother got in. As the boy ran around the front of the car, his brother accidentally stepped on the gas and ran over his lower right leg, breaking it.

By that point, the boy said, his father emerged from the house, still trying to get to his mother.

The boy watched his brother restrain his father on the ground, then hopped across the street to ask the neighbors for help.

He remembers being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.

His mother declined an ambulance at the scene, but as police continued to do their work, prosecutors said, she started demonstrating she was in distress.

Her older son drove her to the hospital, prosecutors said. Not long after she arrived, she became unresponsive, her pupils dilated and fixed. A scan showed her swollen brain was causing her body to shut down.

She slipped into a coma and she never emerged.

In July, a guardian removed her from life support.

The defense argues that Lin did not make the decision to end her life, that he did not act out of the "hatred, ill will, spite" or "evil intent" that defines a second-degree murder charge. They note that Lin did not use a weapon.

The boy was adopted by a couple who watched him testify Tuesday and kept him company in a witness room.

A lawyer asked him if, after his finger was stitched, and his broken leg was cared for, he saw his mother in the hospital.

Yes, the boy said.

And was she able to speak to him?

The boy answered no.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3354.

Son testifies against father in murder trial 01/29/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 12:23pm]
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