ANDERSON — During a police interview session that lasted for several hours, accused murderer Jesse Lee Pitts goes from telling detectives he only gave Amanda Brinker a marijuana joint at her bus stop to saying he knocked her down at Edgewater Park, possibly causing her fatal injuries.

Madison County Prosecutor Thomas Broderick Jr. played the hours-long video recording for jurors on Monday, the fifth day of Pitts’ murder trial for allegedly beating to death 14-year-old Anderson High School freshman Amanda Brinker on the morning of Sept. 20 with a jack handle at the park, which is located in the city’s eastside Park Place area.

Anderson police detectives quickly identified Pitts, 21, as a suspect in Brinker’s slaying. Pitts called 911 to report finding Brinker’s body in the White River, but because of how difficult it was to see the girl from the park’s walking path, detectives’ attention turned to Pitts.

Pitts’ first claims to Detective Terry Sollars that he gave Brinker a joint not far from her bus stop and then drove away. But Sollars tells Pitts that witnesses at the scene spotted Brinker getting into the vehicle he was driving and leaving the scene.

“That’s all I want to know about: How she ended up in that river and how she ended up dead,” Sollars says in the recording. “That’s the bottom line. If you smoked marijuana, I don’t care.”

The exchanges between Sollars and Pitts are sometimes heated, with Pitts finally admitting he took Brinker to the park. He tells Sollars he feared telling detectives that he was with Brinker because he knew suspicion was centered on him.

“You’re right,” he tells Sollars. “The reason I didn’t say it before because it puts me at the crime scene. I didn’t do (expletive) to this girl and I got all this (expletive) on me.”

“That puts us back at square one with poor ol’ Jesse Pitts as our No. 1 suspect,” Sollars replies.

Pitts then tells Sollars that a man driving a sport utility vehicle grabbed Brinker, he panicked and fled. But Sollars tells Pitts there’s a surveillance camera in the park that captured his vehicle on video, but there were no signs of an SUV. Pitts maintains the story, however.

“Are you capable of killing someone?” Sollars asks.

“No.”

Pitts tells Sollars he got blood on his clothing after he came to his senses and returned to the park to check on Brinker. He said he picked her up, her head rolled back, causing the blood stain on his shirt. Pitts is later interviewed by Detective Mike Anderson, but maintains his story about the other man grabbing Brinker and him running away.

Pitts’ story changes again when questioned by Detective Mike Lee. Lee uses a friendly style with Pitts, a change from the other two detectives’ confrontational manner. At first, Pitts maintains another man was at the scene, but then tells Lee that Brinker elbowed him. Without thinking, he swept his leg under hers, knocking her to the ground. She was unresponsive after falling down, he says.

“I tripped her. I didn’t kill her,” Pitts says. “I’m 20. I got scared when she wouldn’t move.”

Pitts tells Lee he then picked Brinker up, and moved her across the walk path, closer to the river. He said this is when he got Brinker’s blood on him. He continued to deny placing her body in the river.

“It’s a pure accident,” he tells Lee, “and I’m going to get blamed for murder.”

Pitts’ trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Madison Superior Court 3. Broderick expects to rest his case after playing the final hour of Pitts’ interview with police. Anderson attorney Jason Childers, Pitts’ public defender, declined to say who he might call to testify. The trial could conclude as early as Tuesday. Pitts faces 45 to 65 years in prison if convicted.



What’s next?

Jesse Lee Pitts’ murder trial will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Madison Superior Court 3. Madison County Prosecutor Thomas Broderick Jr. said the state’s case is expected to rest after he plays the final hour of Pitts’ videotaped interview with detectives. Defense attorney Jason Childers declined to say who he might call to testify. The trial could conclude as early as Tuesday.



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