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Brother of retired police officer recalls haunting confession

By Harriet Ryan
Court TV

(Court TV) -- An hour after his wife and her lover were gunned down, Roy Kipp drove to his brother's house and confessed to the crime, the brother testified Monday in the former deputy's double-murder trial.

"He said, 'I screwed up. I shot Sandy and her boyfriend,'" Billy Kipp told a rapt courtroom in Punta Gorda, Florida.

Roy Kipp, a retired Florida sheriff's lieutenant who is facing the death penalty, remained stoic as his brother described the shocking midnight admission and later revealed that a third brother, Scott, had disposed of the murder weapon the following day.

But when Billy Kipp spoke in glowing terms of his brother's love for his wife and daughter, the defendant began to weep. He again broke into sobs when Billy Kipp mouthed "I love you" as he walked from the witness stand.

Kipp, 44, is accused of breaking into the apartment of his estranged wife, Sandra, on May 20, 2000, and shooting her and sheriff's officer Jeff Klein.

Kipp's lawyers contend he acted both in the heat of passion after discovering the lovers in a "compromising position" and in self-defense after Klein brandished a gun.

Police officers found no gun in the apartment, but the defense has suggested that the officers moved Klein's off-duty weapon from the apartment to his locked truck to, in the words of lawyer Robert Jacobs, "cover up for one of their own."

As in past days, prosecutors called officers who testified they attended the crime scene and never saw Klein's gun in the apartment. The medical examiner, Dr. Manfred Borges, also testified that, if Klein fell and died on top of his gun, an outline of the weapon would "probably" be visible in the blood pooled in his body. No outline was present, he said.

Confronted by defense lawyer Michael Orlando with an autopsy photo showing a ridged impression on Klein's hand, the doctor said it was "possible" a gun butt made the mark.

But the doctor told jurors he had a low standard for deeming things "possible."

"It's possible that the sun could impact into the Earth tomorrow, but not probable," he said.

The medical examiner showed jurors graphic autopsy photos of the victims. Klein, a 35-year-old friend and former co-worker of Kipp, was shot eight times. A single bullet to the back killed Sandra Kipp, also 35. As Borges displayed pictures of her wound, Roy Kipp cried and covered his eyes.

The day's most dramatic testimony came from the defendant's brother. Billy Kipp said Roy Kipp phoned him at 10:30, about five minutes after police say the shootings occurred. Kipp said his brother wanted to drop his daughter, 7-year-old Danielle, off at his house.

Less than an hour later, Billy Kipp said, his brother arrived at his home behaving "erratically" and "wiry."

"I'd never seen my brother like that before," Kipp said. He testified that, after blurting out that he had shot his wife and Klein, his brother said, "Take care of my daughter. I have to go now."

Under questioning by prosecutor Amira Dajani Swett, Kipp acknowledged that his brother never mentioned Klein having a gun, nor threatening him.

Kipp's co-worker Peter Lewkowicz previously testified that Kipp made a more detailed confession in a phone call two hours later.

The witness also appeared to answer one of the remaining mysteries in the case the location of the 9 mm murder weapon.

Billy Kipp said that he learned from either his brother or his parents that the gun was hidden behind the dryer in Roy Kipp's home. He said he accompanied his brother Scott and Scott's girlfriend, Lisa Patner, to the house the day after the shooting.

Both Billy Kipp and Patner, who preceded him on the stand, said the original plan was to get Danielle Kipp's gerbil from her bedroom. But once inside the house, Billy Kipp said, his brother got the gun from behind the dryer and wrapped it in a shirt.

The trio then drove to a bridge in Ft. Meyers. Billy Kipp said he watched his brother walk to the water's edge and then return to the car empty-handed. Scott Kipp was at the courthouse, but was not called to the stand.

An investigator testified Monday that a dive team searched that part of the Gulf of Mexico, but did not find the gun.

Defense lawyer Orlando used Billy Kipp's turn on the stand to give jurors a more favorable perspective on the defendant. His brother described the Kipps' marriage as being like "any other marriage would've been."

"I saw them quite often and I never knew there was a problem," said Kipp. He said his brother often bought his wife gifts "sometimes more than he should" and doted on his two sons from a previous marriage and especially his young daughter.

"He did everything with that girl," Billy Kipp said as his brother wiped away tears at the defense table.

Testimony in the case continues Tuesday.




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