BROOKSVILLE — Brett Hattenbrun nodded, said good morning and smiled when the judge introduced him to prospective jurors. A small-framed man with glasses and graying hair, Hattenbrun laughed along with the rest of the courtroom when a prospective juror said something funny.
Dressed in a gray suit, the 63-year-old appeared relaxed and congenial on Monday, not like a man accused of beating his daughter-in-law to death and then shooting a nail gun at deputies who came to arrest him.
By the end of the day, Hernando Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. and attorneys on both sides had selected 14 jurors for Hattenbrun's first-degree murder trial. Opening statements are set for this morning.
Sometime about 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 16, 2011, authorities say, Hattenbrun walked from his home to his son's house, about 100 yards down Owl Road near Weeki Wachee in Hernando County. Investigators say he intended to confront Joey Hattenbrun about marital problems she was having with his son, Chad, but the meeting turned violent.
Hattenbrun is accused of beating the 30-year-old with a blunt object as she stood in her driveway near the stairs leading to her front door. To make it look like a mugging gone wrong, detectives say, Hattenbrun stole several items from her.
Chad Hattenbrun came home an hour after the beating and found his wife bleeding on the driveway. The pharmacist technician and mother of a 3-year-old boy was flown to the hospital, where she died.
Detectives identified Brett Hattenbrun within days as a prime suspect in the killing and gathered enough evidence to search his home. Days later, five deputies approached the small, secluded house and asked him to come outside. Hattenbrun told them he was changing clothes and would be out soon.
He then swung the door open and tossed a Molotov cocktail at deputies, creating a massive fireball. He then began firing a nail gun at them while using the door as a shield, deputies said.
Detective Bryan Faulkingham shot Hattenbrun in the abdomen, and Hattenbrun was taken to a hospital.
Within hours, Hattenbrun confessed and indicated to investigators that he attacked deputies because he had hoped they would kill him. He was charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, three counts of aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer, and two counts of throwing a destructive device.
A grand jury later indicted Hattenbrun on charges of first-degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon. The murder and attempted murder charges carry mandatory sentences of life in prison.
Assistant Public Defender Alan Fanter tried unsuccessfully at a previous hearing to keep Hattenbrun's statement from being admitted as evidence. Fanter argued that Hattenbrun made the statement hours after being read his rights in the back of the ambulance.