Opening statements given in trial of Tennessee father charged with killing daughter

Attorneys on Monday issued opening statements in the reckless homicide trial of a Sumner County man who shot and killed his 11-year-old daughter on the first day of school in 2016. PHOTO: Timothy Batts in court. WZTV FOX 17 News Nashville

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Attorneys issued opening statements on Monday in the reckless homicide trial of a Sumner County man who shot and killed his 11-year-old daughter on the first day of school in 2016.

Timothy Batts is facing four charges, including reckless homicide and tampering with evidence.

Batts shot his daughter Timea after she returned home from her first day of school, saying the girl startled him while he was taking a nap. Batts then took his daughter to the hospital, where she died from her injury.

District Attorney Ray Whitley told jurors the shooting was captured on home surveillance video. Whitley asked jurors to pay particular attention to the clothing Timea was wearing as it would "come as interest to you as the trial goes on."

Whitley then referenced the video, saying Batts can be seen walking around with a cell phone to his left ear and a gun in his other hand just minutes before the shooting.

Whitley says after Timea arrived home, Batts shot her with the .40 caliber handgun, firing a shot which went through her chest and lodged in a doorjamb.

The D.A. added Batts "did not intend" to kill his daughter, clarifying the charge against Batts was reckless homicide, not first-degree murder.

Whitley also noted Batts' unlawful possession of a weapon, revocation of bond due to a failed drug test, change in statements, and handling of the gun in the wake of the shooting.

Attorneys for Batts told jurors the picture being painted by the District Attorney doesn't reflect the reality.

Batts' attorneys said he was not some "wicked animal who gunned his daughter down then orchestrated some elaborate cover up." Instead, the defense stated "what you are going to see is a human being, "who in the blink of an eye made the most-tragic, horrible mistake a human being can make."

Attorneys spoke about Batts' love for his three daughters, fighting for full custody of the girls whom he had in a previous relationship. Batts was depicted as a man who was trying to create a better life for his daughters and son, working as a barber and landscaper to give his children a better life after moving into the Hendersonville suburbs.

The defense also noted all the children had previously gone to the same school, with Timea starting a new school and having a different schedule than what Batts was used to. Attorneys say Batts was sleeping when he heard something and called out with no reply.

He then saw a shadow and was startled by Timea before firing his weapon.

Following the shooting, the defense said Batts rushed his daughter to the hospital. They said Timea told her father "I understand, I don't think you did it on purpose."

While Batts' changing of statements was not disputed during the opening statement, his attorney said Batts didn't think his daughter was going to die, and when questioned by police was thinking about his history and being in possession of gun.

The District Attorney called a Hendersonville Police officer and a detective, each among the first to have contact with Batts after the shooting. They were the only two witnesses called to the stand before court adjourned for the day.

The trial will resume on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m.

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