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Plant City Courier

Officer: Dickey admitted clubbing wife, blamed Polk sheriff

Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 06:23 PM

When Lawrence Dickey beat his wife with a baseball bat to the head, he didn't intend to kill her, his lawyer told a jury today.

"This was not a calculated, premeditated crime," public defender Greg Hill said in his opening statement at Dickey's trial on a charge of first-degree murder in the September 2011 slaying of his wife, Beatrice, in their Plant City home.

After Dickey turned himself in to Plant City police, he blamed the Polk County sheriff for his actions, a police officer testified.

"He stated, 'Grady Judd drove me to this,' " testified Officer Dennis Pawlowski, who spent two hours with Dickey after the defendant drove up to the department's Welcome Center wearing only a pair of shorts.

Beatrice Dickey, 45, worked as executive director of the Office of Business Affairs for the Polk County Sheriff's Office, one of the department's top administrators.

Pawlowski said Dickey drove up, got out of his sport utility vehicle and told him, "Dennis, lock me up. I just beat my wife with a bat and she's hurt real bad."

Dickey then placed his hands behind his back and Pawlowski put him in handcuffs, the official said.

Later, Pawlowski said, Dickey also told him, "I don't want the kids to see her like that. I had such a perfect life. The devil got what he wanted. Two for one."

Assistant Hillsborough State Attorney Ron Gale said evidence will show that Dickey formed in his mind that night "a premeditated intent to kill his wife."

Premeditation is necessary for a first-degree murder conviction. The defense is evidently seeking a lesser conviction, although Hill didn't specify whether he will argue for second-degree murder or a form of manslaughter.

The couple had gone to a concert by the group Journey at the Amphitheater that night in Tampa and apparently got into an argument because he had been drinking and fell, muddying his clothes, according to Gale and evidence presented in the trial.

Dickey, 46, who then worked as a loss prevention officer for Wal-mart, called two friends who worked with him from the concert. One, Steven Garberg, said he could tell Dickey had been drinking, partly because he sang some of the verses to "Open Arms," a song played at the concert.

Dickey told Garberg he and his wife had argued, saying it was his fault because he had "acted like a fool."

The couple arrived home about midnight. In the house were Dickey's son and daughter, Lawson, then 12, and Taylor, then 16. Also present was Beatrice Dickey's son, Dillon Kirkland, who was 17, as well as a friend of Kirkland's who was staying the night.

Lawson, now 13, heard his stepmother say, "It's good to be home." The boy was the first trial witness. He said after his father and stepmother came home, his father came to him.

"He said my mom was my angel and she'll guide me through everything," Lawson said. The teen said this was a reference to his mother, not his stepmother, Bea Dickey, whom he called Bea.

Then, he said, his father got up and went to the garage.

"I heard bats rattle and hit the floor. … I heard him come back out of the garage and close the door. He went over to his bedroom. … I heard him go in to the bedroom, and a couple seconds later, I heard three whacks."

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7837 Twitter_@ElaineTBO

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