By NATALIE NEYSA ALUND
Jurors in the Richard Henderson Jr. murder trial Thursday listened as the accused killer wept, saying he loved his family and did not understand why he killed them.
"It wasn't out of anger, I had problems, I can't believe what I did," the then-20-year-old Henderson said in a taped interview with the Herald on Dec. 1, 2005 - eight days after he allegedly murdered four members of his family in their Myakka City mobile home.
Henderson, during the phone call recorded from the Manatee County jail, told the newspaper the killings were not premeditated.
"It just happened," Henderson said on the tape, in between periods of crying.
As jurors listened during the fourth day of testimony at the Manatee County Courthouse, Henderson - dressed in a blue button-down shirt and olive slacks - held his right hand over his face throughout most of the taped conversation.
Henderson also confessed he loved his family, had struggled with drug use, including Xanax, and had been bipolar and depressed since he was 13.
"Me being in here for this is more pain than anyone can put me through," Henderson said on the tape. "I don't want people thinking I'm a homicidal killer."
Jurors also heard Henderson's voice in a taped face-to-face jail interview with the case's lead detective, Darin Bankert. Henderson again confirmed his love for his family.
"How could someone love their family so much and kill them?" Henderson asked.
Bankert responded on the tape, "Again, that comes down to the legal definition of insanity."
Henderson's lawyers are trying to convince jurors their client insane at the time of the slayings. They said they plan to call a doctor to testify to that.
Throughout testimony, the defense team has been asking prosecution witnesses whether Henderson talked about suicide.
Prosecutors are trying to convince the jury that Henderson used a steel pipe to kill his mother, Jeaneane; father, Richard Sr.; grandmother, June; and 11-year-old brother, Jacob, on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 2005.
Bankert confirmed Thursday that Henderson said he got the pipe from a shed at the family's home.
If Henderson is convicted of four counts of first-degree murder, prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.
Earlier in the day, the state re-called an ex-girlfriend of Henderson's, who backed off from testimony she gave that Henderson told her he "realized what he had done" after he killed his brother.
Jennifer McCreary's initial testimony Wednesday brought the trial to a halt after lead defense attorney Carolyn Schlemmer motioned for a mistrial because the testimony did not match McCreary's pretrial statements.
On Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Diana Moreland instructed jurors to disregard the statement, and testimony continued. Moreland has reserved ruling on the mistrial motion.
Later in the day, a crime lab analyst with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement explained to jurors how DNA testing is done. She put on a pair of white gloves, pulled the steel pipe out of a brown evidence bag and pointed to areas where DNA was found.
The lab analyst, Kristin Lehman, testified the DNA of the four victims was found on a metal pipe.
Also Thursday, Dawn Metzgar, an associate with Value Pawn, testified Henderson pawned an Xbox, a flat-screen TV and numerous DVDs for $377 the day after the family was found beaten to death.
Metzgar said Henderson appeared to be in touch with reality during the transaction.
Testimony is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. today.