PORTLAND – Jeffrey and Linda Dolloff had talked about divorce for nearly as long as they had been married, but they didn’t agree to terms until a few weeks before he was beaten nearly to death with a softball bat in his bed.

Testifying in his wife’s trial in Cumberland County Superior Court, Jeffrey Dolloff told the jury Thursday that he and Linda Dolloff got married on a cruise ship off the coast of Florida in 1998. He also said they talked about divorce for 10 years.

Each time the subject came up, Linda Dolloff moved to reconcile, until Jeffrey Dolloff decided in March 2009 not to try again. “I gave her a pad and paper and told her to write down everything she wanted,” he testified.

They agreed to the final terms of a divorce, he said, while they soaked in a hot tub in their house in Standish about two weeks before the assault.

“My experience is, when you’re having an unpleasant conversation, it’s easy to walk away,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to walk away when you’re in a hot tub.”

Linda Dolloff, who is charged with attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault and filing a false report, says an intruder beat Jeffrey Dolloff and then shot her, with a gun from Jeffrey Dolloff’s dresser, after she awoke in her separate bedroom and heard a noise. She was shot in the abdomen with a .22-caliber handgun, and the bullet lodged in her right hip.

Prosecutors say Linda Dolloff beat her husband and then, to cover her crime, shot herself and called 911 to report a home invasion.

Jeffrey Dolloff remembers nothing from the night of the assault, April 12, 2009, but told jurors about the couple’s rocky relationship.

He looked relatively healthy on the stand, even though police assumed he was going to die when they began investigating the reported home invasion. He was unconscious in two hospitals for about a month.

He occasionally rubbed his legs as if they were sore and dabbed at his eyes, which were apparently watery, but he wasn’t crying. He and Linda Dolloff appeared to avoid eye contact in the courtroom. The two are still married.

He painted a picture of a couple who worked side-by-side to build a house, using lumber they cut and milled themselves. Once they moved into the home, he said, they had separate bedrooms.

He said Linda Dolloff “did everything I did” to build the house on Dolloff Road. That testimony served to undercut the defense’s suggestion that the size difference between Jeffrey Dolloff, at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, and Linda Dolloff, at 5-foot-4 and 110 pounds, made it unlikely that she could have beaten him without getting hit in the process.

“It would be like beating a bear with a baseball bat,” defense attorney Daniel Lilley said in making that argument Thursday afternoon.

If Linda Dolloff had intended to kill her husband, Lilley said, she more likely would have used one of the guns in the house.

Jeffrey Dolloff testified that he had, “within a couple of guns, say 24” in the home.

He didn’t offer many details to explain his decision to divorce, other than Linda Dolloff’s inability to get along with his three daughters by a previous marriage, and “it wasn’t working.”

He noted that his will at the time of the attack left almost everything to Linda Dolloff.

He said that a few years earlier, she “threw a tantrum” when he set up a trust to be established when he died to cover the Dolloff Farm, a 215-acre tract that he and Linda Dolloff bought from one of Jeffrey Dolloff’s cousins in 2003.

The trust required Linda Dolloff and Jeffrey Dolloff’s brother, Brian Dolloff, to agree on any plan to sell or subdivide the property. “She was deeply upset,” Jeffrey Dolloff said.

District Attorney Stephanie Anderson dropped the line of questioning after Lilley objected and the lawyers conferred with Justice Joyce Wheeler.

The divorce agreement made in the hot tub gave Linda Dolloff half of a house the couple owned in Buxton, worth about $130,000; $100,000 cash, paid out over 10 years; half-ownership of the farm under the trusteeship; and the right to stay for a year in an apartment attached to the home in Standish, with Jeffrey Dolloff paying all of her living expenses.

Linda Dolloff insisted on the apartment, he testified. She said it was “because after six months I would realize she was the most special person in my life and she would be back in my life,” he testified.

She told him that the $100,000 was for the work she did on their house. Jeffrey Dolloff said he thought that was about $60,000 too high.

“I questioned it very loudly,” he said, pointing out that he owned the land the house was built on and that he built the apartment they lived in during construction. He said he agreed to the amount on the condition that Linda Dolloff not argue over other items.

“The $60,000 paid for no more discussion,” he said.

Jeffrey Dolloff is due back on the stand this morning. Prosecutors are expected to play a tape of a call he made to Linda Dolloff late last spring, as he was recovering from his injuries.

Lilley said the call, recorded by police, was a “pretext” to try to get Linda Dolloff to make an incriminating statement. He said Linda Dolloff doesn’t make any admissions and the tape is “not that bad” for his case.

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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