Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Weeki Wachee man receives life sentence for murder of his daughter-in-law

Brett Hattenbrun, convicted of second-degree murder in March in the death of his daughter-in-law, Joey Hattenbrun, is removed from the courtroom after sentencing Thursday by Hernando County Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Brett Hattenbrun, convicted of second-degree murder in March in the death of his daughter-in-law, Joey Hattenbrun, is removed from the courtroom after sentencing Thursday by Hernando County Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr.

BROOKSVILLE — He never spoke a word at his trial, but Brett Hattenbrun had plenty to say Thursday as he was sentenced for the beating death of his daughter-in-law, Joey Hattenbrun, 30.

For nearly an hour, Hattenbrun read a rambling statement from a legal pad before Hernando County Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr.

He said he wasn't the killer. Rather, he said, he had become the victim of a "bunch of lies from dishonest detectives" who forced him to make a false confession to the crime.

Merritt was not moved. He sentenced Hattenbrun to life in prison for second-degree murder, plus 105 years for convictions on six counts of aggravated assault, two counts of making or throwing a destructive device and one count of theft.

The 63-year-old former corrections officer from Weeki Wachee originally had been charged with premeditated first-degree murder, but a 12-member jury decided in March that the evidence failed to support that charge.

Dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, Hattenbrun barely acknowledged a small group of Joey Hattenbrun's family members and friends who spoke from a podium during the proceedings.

Joey Hattenbrun's mother, Carolyn Crouch, recalled the night she was greeted by her daughter's father-in-law after learning that her body had been discovered in the driveway of her home on Owl Road near Weeki Wachee.

"Little did I know I was hugging Joey's murderer," she said as she glanced in Brett Hattenbrun's direction. "You're a monster. You have no remorse. No one will miss you."

During the trial, prosecutors Bill Catto and Rich Buxman sought to prove that Brett Hattenbrun had murder on his mind when he went to the home the victim shared with his son, Chad, on the night of Sept. 16, 2011.

According to testimony, Brett Hattenbrun told Hernando County sheriff's detectives — after many denials during a 10-hour interview — that he confronted his daughter-in-law after she returned home from her shift as a pharmacy technician at a Brooksville CVS store. He suspected she had been cheating on his son.

When she attempted to call police, Hattenbrun grabbed her cellphone. When she kicked him in the groin, he picked up a metal pipe from the bed of a nearby truck and beat her until she crumpled to the ground. He then scattered the contents of her purse on the ground to make the attack look like a robbery and dumped the pipe and gloves in a trash bin.

Eleven days later, Hernando sheriff's Sgt. Phil Lakin and four other officers attempted to serve a search warrant at Brett Hattenbrun's Owl Road home. But when Lakin knocked, Hattenbrun opened the door, threw a Molotov cocktail at Lakin's feet, then started shooting a nail gun. He was shot in the abdomen by a detective and surrendered.

In his statement Thursday, Hattenbrun took issue with that account and repeatedly maintained that he was incapable of such violence and had tremendous respect for law enforcement officers. In a contradictory statement, however, he admitted he "snapped" when he threw the fire bomb and fired the nail gun, hoping deputies would kill him.

At one point, Merritt interrupted Hattenbrun to tell him that his lengthy commentary "seemed to be a bit out of line" for a sentencing hearing.

He allowed him to continue, however, for a few more minutes until Hattenbrun concluded.

Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.

Weeki Wachee man receives life sentence for murder of his daughter-in-law 04/24/14 [Last modified: Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Empire' star Grace Byers keynotes USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy luncheon

    Human Interest

    BY AMY SCHERZER

    TAMPA — The first University of South Florida graduate to address the USF's Women in Leadership & Philanthropy supporters, Grace Gealey Byers, class of 2006, centered her speech on her first name, turning it into a verb to share life lessons.

    Grace Byers, University of South Florida Class of 2006, stars on the Fox television show Empire. She delivered the keynote at the USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy luncheon Friday. Photo by Amy Scherzer
  2. Southeast Seminole Heights holds candlelight vigil for victims' families and each other

    News

    TAMPA — They came together in solidarity in Southeast Seminole Heights, to sustain three families in their grief and to confront fear, at a candlelight vigil held Sunday night in the central Tampa neighborhood.

    A peaceful march that began on east New Orleans Avenue was held during the candlelight vigil for the three victims who were killed in the recent shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa on Sunday, October 22, 2017.
  3. It's not just Puerto Rico: FEMA bogs down in Florida, Texas too

    HOUSTON — Outside Rachel Roberts' house, a skeleton sits on a chair next to the driveway, a skeleton child on its lap, an empty cup in its hand and a sign at its feet that reads "Waiting on FEMA."

    Ernestino Leon sits among the debris removed from his family’s flood-damaged Bonita Springs home on Oct. 11. He has waited five weeks for FEMA to provide $10,000 to repair the home.
  4. McConnell says he's awaiting Trump guidance on health care

    STERLING, Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he's willing to bring bipartisan health care legislation to the floor if President Donald Trump makes clear he supports it.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s “not certain yet” on what Trump wants.
  5. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.