A Baton Rouge man accused in a savage 2013 fatal beating contradicted witness statements and insisted to detectives that he cut his wrist fending off an attack from the victim’s boyfriend, according to a recording of Jeremy Brown’s police interrogation played Thursday for a state court jury.
Brown’s version of how his wrist was sliced stands in stark contrast to the testimony Wednesday of two men who said they watched as a furious Brown — after tossing rocks, bricks and sticks under a Wenonah Street duplex where Shaun Hartley was hiding — tried to throw a metal pipe under the house, only to have it bounce back and cut his own wrist.
One of those witnesses said he also saw Brown walk into the abandoned house — after Hartley emerged from under the duplex and went inside — armed with a wooden two-by-four and heard Brown say he was going to “handle my damn business.”
Police found a bloody two-by-four on the kitchen floor next to a back room where Hartley’s badly beaten body was discovered Sept. 12, 2013. The overwhelming majority of the blood belonged to Hartley, but a drop of blood on the other end of the board matched Brown’s DNA, police have said.
Dr. Cameron Snider, the pathologist who performed Hartley’s autopsy, testified Thursday that Hartley suffered a fractured skull, brain bleeding, a broken upper and lower jaw, broken cheekbone, a punctured lung and 22 stab wounds to the collarbone area. A flathead screwdriver could have inflicted some of the stab wounds, Snider said.
Brown’s attorneys said in court Wednesday that Hartley, 31, had prostituted himself in north Baton Rouge while dressed as a woman. The court record indicates he had two prostitution arrests, one of which was pending at the time of his death.
Brown’s videotaped police statement was played Thursday in state District Judge Chip Moore’s courtroom while Zac Woodring, the lead Baton Rouge police detective on the Hartley murder case, sat in the witness chair next to the jury.
Brown told Woodring and fellow detective Ross Williams in his Sept. 18, 2013, interrogation that Hartley picked him up from one of Brown’s relative’s homes and took him to the abandoned half of the Wenonah duplex. While there, he said, Hartley’s boyfriend showed up, got angry and swung a metal pipe at him, cutting his wrist.
“I left. Ran out,” Brown told the detectives.
After Woodring referred to Brown’s story during the interview as “this boyfriend lie,” Brown stated, “You got the wrong guy.”
Woodring testified Thursday while being questioned by prosecutor Jessica Jarreau that Hartley was killed about 8:30 a.m. and his body was found about four hours later. Witnesses testified Wednesday that Brown was throwing objects under the duplex at Hartley between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Brown was complaining that Hartley had stolen his gun, the witnesses said.
Woodring also testified that Shingo Edwards, against whom Hartley was scheduled to testify in a January 2013 shooting death, was an early suspect in Hartley’s death. But Woodring said it was determined that Edwards was in jail at the time of Hartley’s killing. Woodring said he did not interview Edwards.
Edwards, also a prostitute, and Hartley were former roommates.
Woodring said Hartley spent time in the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office’s voluntary witness protection program, but he left the program shortly before he was beaten to death.
Woodring, while being questioned by Brown’s lead attorney, Jerry Settle, acknowledged that the area where Hartley was killed is a high-crime area known for drugs and prostitution.
East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors rested their case Thursday evening. Brown told Judge Moore he will not testify in his own defense. The case is expected to conclude Friday.
Brown, 31, is charged with second-degree murder. A conviction on that charge would carry an automatic sentence of life behind bars.