RINGGOLD, Ga. — Before his father shot him in the chest and killed him, Patrick Lance Wooten "abused and frightened" his own 7-year-old daughter Saturday morning, Wooten's mother testified Wednesday.
Then, Judy Wooten testified, he turned to her and knocked her to the ground. She had been in this position before. On April 25, she told Chickamauga police that Lance Wooten had grabbed her by the throat, throwing her onto the couch. Now, 11 days later, he was out of jail and back in her living room on Hood Avenue.
"You were afraid of him," Public Defender David Dunn said Wednesday afternoon during a bond hearing for Pat Ray Wooten, Judy's husband and Lance's father.
"Very much," Judy Wooten whispered.
She did not take the stand in Catoosa County Superior Court, Dunn and Judge Ralph Van Pelt Jr. telling her she didn't have to walk across the room. About 30 minutes earlier, she had hobbled in lugging an oxygen tank. She told Van Pelt that she is deaf in one ear, suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and underwent a triple bypass last July.
But through her quiet testimony Wednesday, Dunn laid the foundation of his case: Pat Wooten, a longtime police officer and paramedic, acted in self-defense when he killed his son. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has charged him with malice murder.
"Pat was afraid of him?" Dunn asked Judy Wooten.
Yes, she said.
Assistant District Attorney Vikki Clark objected to Dunn's questions, arguing his self-defense argument was not the point of Wednesday's hearing. Van Pelt agreed, though he ultimately granted Dunn's request to give Pat Wooten the bond.
The specific dollar amount should be decided today. Dunn argued his client did not have much to put up, and Van Pelt said the bond should be set at the value of Pat and Judy Wooten's Chickamauga home. According to the Walker County property appraiser website, the house was worth $40,700 last year.
In the eight months before his death, Chickamauga police arrested Lance Wooten four times on simple battery charges. The first alleged victim was his wife. The next two times, Pat Wooten was the alleged victim. And the last time, according to a police report, Judy Wooten had been the victim.
Lance Wooten's wife, who has moved to Bryant, Ala., also took out three restraining orders against him, claiming he followed her to work, accused her of cheating and beat her.
Dunn represented a client in a similar murder case two years ago. In Chattooga County, the GBI charged Deborah Elaine Wilkins with murdering her boyfriend, Bob Packer. But people in the rural Gore community knew Packer had a reputation for drinking heavily, doing drugs and fighting. In fact, Packer himself had been found not guilty in his own prior murder case.
Dunn argued that Wilkins had to kill her boyfriend to save herself. And in February 2015, a jury acquitted her.
Before Saturday's shooting, Pat Wooten worked as court security and as a detentions officer in Walker County, and Dunn called three witnesses from the sheriff's office to testify on his behalf on Wednesday: Deputy Gary Brown, Capt. Burt Cagle and Lt. Pat Cook.
The three said Pat Wooten was not a flight risk because he moves slowly, having undergone three hip surgeries. He doesn't appear to have the money to successfully move out of town. And, they testified, Pat Wooten would not intimidate witnesses while he was out on bond — the only two people who saw the shooting were his wife and granddaughter.
"That's not in his personality," Brown said.
While Dunn argued that Pat Wooten needs to be out of jail for his own health, Clark countered that his condition must not be too bad: He worked last week. She also questioned Cagle about why Pat Wooten left the Rossville Police Department in 2007.
Cagle, who has known Pat Wooten for about 30 years, said there had been some issue with department equipment. When Clark pressed further, Cagle said, "He possibly Tased his son."
Dunn argued this, too, was in self defense.
The Chickamauga and Rossville police departments have denied the Times Free Press' open records requests for Pat Wooten's personnel file, saying the information is now part of the GBI's investigation and unavailable to the public.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.