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Tape played at Pasco murder trial

NEW PORT RICHEY — "What happened to Jasmine?"

April Chambers cried and begged her boyfriend to tell her the truth.

"Did you squeeze her?" she asked.

"Did you shake her?"

"Did you get angry at her?"

"You know I would never lie to you," he told her.

Jeremy James Kirkpatrick, 26, is charged with killing 13-month-old Jasmine Chambers in September 2006. Kirkpatrick is on trial this week for first-degree murder. Wednesday was the second full day of the trial, and the strongest piece of testimony jurors heard was a recording of the call April Chambers, then 19, made to Kirkpatrick the day after her daughter died in his care.

"I snapped," he said at the end of the call.

Kirkpatrick's attorneys have acknowledged that his actions led to the baby's death. They're arguing that it was an accident and hoping for a conviction on a lesser charge, such as involuntary manslaughter.

The defense rested Wednesday afternoon after calling no witnesses. Closing arguments are set for this morning.

Kirkpatrick lived with Chambers at her parents' home in New Port Richey. They had been boyfriend and girlfriend only a few months. She had left for work for the evening.

Kirkpatrick told everyone the baby had fallen off the couch.

But the autopsy said she had cuts and scrapes, and 47 separate bruises all over her body. Those injuries, jurors learned, could not have come from a fall from a couch. The chief medical examiner testified about the girl's swollen, bleeding brain, and "overall generalized death of the brain itself."

Jurors also learned on Wednesday that Kirkpatrick asked a guard at the Pasco County jail in Land O'Lakes if he could be put in "a rubber room" because he wanted to hurt himself.

The guard asked him why.

"I killed my daughter," Kirkpatrick said.

The most compelling portion of Wednesday's testimony, though, was the playing of the tape of the call Chambers made to Kirkpatrick. A Pasco sheriff's detective asked her to make the call. She agreed to have it recorded.

She got sad and cried. She got mad and yelled. She threatened at one point to kill herself so she could go to heaven to ask her daughter how she had died.

The longer they were on the phone, the more Kirkpatrick said, and the more his story changed.

First he said she fell off the couch. Then he said he dropped her once in the bathtub. Then he said he dropped her a second time on the tile floor in the living room. Then he said he smacked her in her high chair when she wouldn't stop crying.

Chambers demanded the whole truth.

"Tell me what you did to Jasmine!" she said.

"Now!"

"Everything!"

He said: "I'm not covering my a--, honey."

He said: "I'm not lying to you, honey."

He said: "I swear to you, honey."

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6244.

Tape played at Pasco murder trial 10/29/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 31, 2008 6:10pm]
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