ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The video-recorded confession of a 30-year-old man who pleaded guilty earlier this month in the 2010 killing of a 45-year-old Ponte Vedra Beach woman was released Friday.
"I remember waking up and hearing her go off about something, and I don't really remember much after that," Joseph Roberts told detectives while being questioned in the murder of Brittany Tavar (pictured below). "And then I remember standing over her and she's dead, and there is blood everywhere."
Roberts was arrested in Seattle three months after Tavar's killing. Two St. Johns County detectives flew to Washington state to interview him, and that's when he confessed to beating Tavar with a hammer and stabbing her, deputies said.
Detectives began the interview with Roberts by asking how he got there. He told them Tavar let him borrow her car and also loaned him her cellphone and debit card.
"She was going to pick it up," Roberts said.
The detectives didn't buy it, and then Roberts asked for an attorney.
"You know, I think I should probably get a lawyer," he said.
More than 10 minutes later, as the detectives left and came back in the room, Roberts changed his mind.
"I will talk to you," Roberts said. "I have a couple requests."
He asked for a cigarette and for him to be placed in a safe jail.
"I'm not going to survive in anything that is maximum-security," Roberts said.
Then he started to tell what happened.
"Well, and I'll tell you this, I made a huge mistake," he said. "I don't know how it happened, I don't know why it happened, I don't even really remember it. I freaked out and I ran."
Roberts, a drifter, had been living with Tavar after she took him in. He said they were having a huge argument about an upcoming court case, and one morning he just snapped as she yelled at him while he was sleeping.
"And I came out just yelling at her, calling her an ungrateful (expletive), and I picked up something and I hit her," Roberts said.
"Do you know what it was that you picked up?" a detective asked.
"A hammer," Roberts said.
"How many times did you hit her?" a detective asked.
"I don't know. Too many," Roberts said.
Roberts then drew a map leading investigators to Tavar's body, which he said he wrapped in blankets and trash bags and dumped in a St. Johns County field.
"People make mistakes, Joe," a detective said.
"Yeah, but not those that cost them their life, you know?" And somebody else's, too," Roberts said while crying.
Roberts appeared remorseful, saying he never planned to kill the woman who did so much for him.
"If I look at it rationally, there is no freaking point," he said. "I've never hurt anybody else in my life. I have avoided fights for the exact same reason that I do know that I have a temper.
"She never did anything wrong by me," Roberts added. "She was trying to help me. She was probably one of the only ones. Basically, I killed the one person that was trying to help me."
Roberts said he fled because he was buying time. He thought about leaving the country but went to the Pacific Coast instead. He said he knew he'd have to pay sooner or later.
Roberts was sentenced to 30 years in prison for second degree murder, as part of a plea deal.
State Attorney R.J. Larizza said prosecutors and Tavar's family agreed that offering a plea agreement would be a good idea because some evidence might not have been admissible, including the confession, at trial. They felt this was a sure thing that'll keep Roberts in prison for a long time.
He will be 60 years old at the end of his sentence.
Former boyfriend reacts to confession
Derryl Brown, who was dating Tavar when she was killed, has seen Roberts' recorded confession and said it's disturbing. He said he believes the confession reveals Roberts to be a cold-hearted killer.
Brown and Tavar had been dating only a few months in 2010 when Tavar was brutally beaten by Roberts. Brown said he had been falling in love with Tavar.
"One day I was joking around. She had these two dogs and they were on my lap and they loved me to death and I made the joke, at least the dogs loved me," Brown recalled. "She walked by and gave me a kiss on the cheek and says, 'Well, I love you too.' And that was very touching."
Brown said he still thinks about Tavar and what could have become of their relationship.
"I don't' understand how you can brutally murder someone who is trying to help you. I don't care how mad you are," Brown said. "I disagree with the 30 years. I don't think he should ever get out of prison."
Brown said he is not at a place where he can forgive Roberts for the murder, but in some ways, he has been able to move forward. He met someone about a year ago and they were recently married.