Andre Hampton took the witness stand Monday in his murder trial and told the jurors he didnt intend to kill his 23-month-old son.
Asked by one of his lawyers why he beat Ellijah Burger in November 2008, Hampton said he wanted him to eat.
Hampton, 27, said he shouldnt have done anything to his son.
Im better than that, he said. I dont know what came over me.
The defense rested Monday afternoon. Jurors on Tuesday are expected to begin deliberating whether Hampton is guilty of first-degree murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Hampton testified that he was under a lot of stress at the time of his sons killing. He said he had been struggling to buy food for his family and suffered from a lack of sleep in working an overnight shift at his job and taking care of Ellijah, his sons mother and her daughter.
Ellijah was beaten inside a motel room at a complex then called AARCS Residence Suites on South Tryon, where his family had been living.
Hampton confessed during a videotaped interview to beating Ellijah with a toothbrush, a hair brush and a belt. His son, he told the homicide detective, wouldnt eat his soup.
Hampton told jurors on Monday his sons birth was like a dream come true. He wiped tears from his eyes as he talked about Ellijah.
I was proud of him, he said. He was a good kid. Every day I loved him even more.
Defense attorney Norman Butler asked Hampton why he didnt show any emotion when the homicide detective told him in 2008 that Ellijah had died as a result of the beating.
I didnt believe I caused the death, Hampton replied. I didnt want to believe I caused the death.
Butler then asked Hampton why he broke down sobbing last week while prosecutors showed jurors autopsy photographs of Ellijahs battered body.
It hurt me that I did it, he replied.
Did you intend to beat Ellijah to death? the defense attorney asked.
No, sir, Hampton replied.
Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Bill Bunting, while cross-examining Hampton, slammed on the witness stand the toothbrush, hair brush and belt that had been used to beat Ellijah.
Hampton acknowledged that Ellijah had cried and wailed during the beating. He also admitted that police werent called until Ellijah had stopped breathing.
Dr. Donna Schwartz-Watts, a psychiatrist, told the jurors that Hampton suffered from chronic depression and an anxiety disorder.
Earlier Monday, Hamptons twin brother told jurors how the two of them had been beaten while growing up. Anthony Hampton recall spankings with a brush, extension cord and broomstick. He also described the beatings the two brothers received from the men in their mothers life.
Anthony Hampton said he and his brother were disciplined for the smallest things and for any reason. He called some of the beatings cruel punishment.
Arielle Hampton, 23, told jurors about her brother Andres love for Ellijah.
Ellijah was the best part of Andres life, she said. Whatever he did was for his son making sure he had everything he needed.
He loved his son from the minute he was born. They were inseparable.