PLANT CITY — Lawrence Douglas Dickey drove to the police department past midnight Saturday and started talking.
"Lock me up," an officer recalled him saying. "I just beat my wife with a bat. She is hurt real bad."
That's the confession Plant City police say Dickey, 44, gave before he was arrested Sunday morning and charged with first-degree murder.
At Dickey's home on Paddock Drive, authorities found his wife, 44-year-old Beatrice Ann Dickey, in the master bedroom with blunt-force trauma to the head. A bloodied aluminum baseball bat lay beside her.
Beatrice Dickey, the highest-ranking civilian employee of the Polk County Sheriff's Office, was flown to Tampa General Hospital and pronounced dead.
"Bea was an incredibly special person to all of us at the Polk County Sheriff's Office," Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement. "She was not just our colleague, she was our dear friend. Our Sheriff's Office family is hurting. This is a tremendous loss."
She had joined the Sheriff's Office in 1996, rising to her position as executive director of business affairs. She led and managed finances, human resources, training, fleet operations, information technology and business services. On the executive chain, she ranked third, below the sheriff and the chief of staff.
On the Facebook page for the Sheriff's Office, a note about Beatrice Dickey gathered dozens of comments within hours. Former classmates, co-workers and strangers left prayers and mourned what they called a tragedy and a shock.
It had all started, Plant City police said, after Lawrence and Beatrice Dickey returned home from a Saturday night concert.
Lawrence Dickey woke up a son — both husband and wife each had two children from previous relationships — who had been sleeping on a couch. He hugged the boy and said, "I love you, your mother is an angel and will get you through this."
The son, who was not named in a police report, heard Lawrence Dickey go into the garage and drop an object, a sound the son said he recognized as an aluminum bat hitting the floor.
Lawrence Dickey walked into the bedroom, and the son heard three thumps.
Then Lawrence Dickey went to the police and turned himself in. He was being held in the Hillsborough County Jail without bail.
Plant City police spokesman Tray Towles said he wasn't aware of any history of domestic violence between the couple, who records show wed in 2007.
Lawrence Dickey has faced charges in Florida only once before, according to state records: In 1986, he was convicted of reckless driving and resisting an officer during arrest. A third charge of eluding law enforcement was dismissed.
Jail records list his employer as Walmart and his job there as asset protection.
Family members could not be reached or would not comment Sunday. The father of Beatrice Dickey's two sons declined to comment, saying only that she was a loving mother.
Beatrice Dickey was also a cancer survivor, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office. She volunteered as the executive director of Polk Sheriff's Charities, which supports public safety causes. She served on several organizations' boards and was the treasurer of the Lakeland Kiwanis Club, where president Jim Malless remembered, "She always said 'yes' to doing anything."
She was a creative force, Malless said, brainstorming and listening with a calm, "let's get it done" attitude. He last saw her at a Kiwanis meeting Friday, where she was smiling.
"That never changed with her," he said.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Stephanie Wang can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2443.