Thursday, January 18, 2018
News Roundup

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

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.

Comments

High school scoreboard for Jan. 17

Wednesday’s scoreboardBoys basketballBoca Ciega 62, Clearwater 52Boys soccerPalm Harbor U. 3, Dunedin 0Girls soccerPalm Harbor U. 5, Dunedin 0
Updated: 3 hours ago
‘All I see is fire’: 911 calls released from Florida casino boat fire

‘All I see is fire’: 911 calls released from Florida casino boat fire

PORT RICHEY — The first call came into emergency dispatch at 4 p.m. on Sunday from shore, reporting a ‘giant’ boat on fire in the Pithlachascotee River."It’s urgent," the caller said.Others followed quickly, one woman crying as she described from her...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Shelters offer escape from the cold for those who need it

Shelters offer escape from the cold for those who need it

On warmer nights, Jerry Hardison can sleep for a few hours at the recycling center. He works 11-hour shifts there. He gets off at 2:30 a.m., then waits until the buses start running again.But not Wednesday."Getting out that time of the morning in the...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Apple to build second campus, hire 20,000 in $350B pledge

Apple to build second campus, hire 20,000 in $350B pledge

Associated PressSAN FRANCISCO — Apple is planning to build another corporate campus and hire 20,000 workers during the next five years as part of a $350 billion commitment to the United States that will be partially financed by an upcoming windfall f...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Michigan father deported after three decades in community; AIDS crusader Mathlide Kim dies; more in U.S. news

Michigan father deported after three decades in community; AIDS crusader Mathlide Kim dies; more in U.S. news

Michigan This was his home for 30 years, then ICE forced dad from familyWith two immigration agents hovering nearby, Jorge Garcia pulled his wife and their 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son close for a final hug at the Detroit airport. Soon af...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Gibsonton man faces 50 counts of child porn

Gibsonton man faces 50 counts of child porn

GIBSONTON — A 46-year-old man was arrested Wednesday by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents on 50 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of promoting a sexual performance by a child.Authorities said they received several tip...
Updated: 7 hours ago

He still has nightmares: Deckhand recalls prior casino boat fire

Cory Byrd said he still has nightmares about the smoke. In them, he is back in the cabin of the Express Shuttle II, scrambling to reach the white rectangle of an open door. The smoke was so thick, he said, you could barely see an outstretched hand. ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Wallaby bounds down Sydney Harbour Bridge; North, South Korea to march as one in Olympics; more in world news

Wallaby bounds down Sydney Harbour Bridge; North, South Korea to march as one in Olympics; more in world news

AustraliaWallaby infiltrates Sydney bridgeA wayward wallaby disrupted downtown traffic by bounding across the Sydney Harbor Bridge on Tuesday with police in pursuit. The adult male was captured without any apparent serious injury and is expected to b...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Pinellas sheriff, feds announce changes to controversial immigrant detention policy

Pinellas sheriff, feds announce changes to controversial immigrant detention policy

LARGO — For years, county sheriffs in the United States have faced a quandary when asked by federal officials to hold undocumented immigrants in their local jails. They could continue to hold them for up to two days past the time they were legally fr...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Water Street Tampa developers seek artist and design for $600,000 outdoor art near USF med school

Water Street Tampa developers seek artist and design for $600,000 outdoor art near USF med school

TAMPA — Water Street Tampa called Wednesday for artists to send in their ideas for a big piece of public art for the outdoor plaza between one of the $3 billion project’s office buildings and the new University of South Florida Morsani College of Med...
Updated: 8 hours ago