The five-year relationship between Constance Smith and Brian Puckett was saddled with drunken spats, violent clashes and verbal abuse.
But on Wednesday, it was Smith's 28-year-old son who was arrested on an open count of murder after telling Escambia County sheriff's investigators he killed Puckett with three solid swings of an axe.
"I enjoyed it, I loved every friggin' swing," Nathan Smith told officers after his arrest in the death that occurred in the home that he, his mother and her boyfriend shared on Hollowbrook Circle in Ensley.
On Thursday, Smith stood with both arms behind his back during his first video court appearance from the jail. He didn't appear upset. He didn't appear worried.
"My name is Nathan Smith, and I understand my rights," he said without prompting from Judge David Ackerman.
Ackerman ordered him held without bond. After reading through the arrest report, Ackerman told Assistant Public Defender John Knowles he can request bond later as the facts of the case come into focus.
"We don't know if there was self-defense," Ackerman said.
The investigation began about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday with a 911 call that someone in the Hollowbrook Circle home suffered a heart attack.
The medical call turned into a murder investigation when Puckett, 34, was found seated in a chair in the garage with three large lacerations on the left side of his head.
Constance Smith, 45, was home at the time of the attack. She is not charged in the death.
Nathan Smith's friend, Mike Nelson, told officers he dropped Smith off about 2:30 a.m. after celebrating Smith's birthday with him.
Smith told investigators that his mother and Puckett were arguing when he got home. However, he went to his room and went to sleep.
Then, about 5 a.m., Nelson told officers, Nathan Smith appeared at Nelson's home, said he and Puckett had gotten into an altercation, and he thought he hurt Puckett "pretty bad." Nelson said Smith then said everything was OK, apologized for waking him and left.
Later, Nelson received a hysterical phone call from Constance Smith, who said she thought her son was "in trouble" and Puckett had been killed with an ax.
Deputies have encountered Puckett and Constance Smith before, according to a string of court filings.
In March 2006, Puckett was arrested in the parking lot of Flounder's on Pensacola Beach for beating Constance Smith.
She said Puckett abused her "all the time" and she was "sick of getting beat up," according to the arrest report.
Later, however, Constance Smith said she lied to the deputies about what happened and didn't want to press charges.
The Flounder's manager told a different story.
He said Puckett grabbed Constance Smith around the neck and pulled her into a vehicle. She screamed for help.
The state proceeded with the case. Puckett pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge and was ordered to attend 10 anger-management sessions.
A year later, Constance Smith applied for a protective order.
In the application dated April 1, 2007, she said a drunken Puckett yelled, cursed and threw dishes at her. He also smashed a grapefruit over her head, splitting the fruit and squeezing it until her face and body were covered in juice, the application says.
"We have lived together for 2 � years. The arguing and violence has been ongoing all this time," she wrote. "I own my home and have asked Brian to leave on numerous occasions without success."
She noted that Puckett did not work and lived off her money.
A judge granted a temporary protective order, but the case was dropped several months later when Constance Smith didn't appear at a court hearing.
In March 2008, Puckett was again arrested after punching Constance Smith several times in the face after she asked him for a cigarette. Both were drunk at the time.
Deputy Carl Manoso noted that Puckett was arrested once before on domestic- violence charges, and he noted at least 10 prior incidents.
He wrote that Smith said Puckett "destroys her belongings when he gets angry."
A battery charge was later dropped.
On April 21, deputies were called to Constance Smith's house after a domestic- violence call.
"Puckett refused to cooperate and refused to answer any questions for the domestic-violence paperwork," Deputy Richard Potter wrote. "Puckett also refused to provide a sworn written statement."
The report gave clues to the routine nature of law enforcement's interaction with the couple.
"I then contacted Smith who was very uncooperative again," Potter wrote.
As she was interviewed by the deputy, she screamed at Puckett and rammed him with her shoulder.
She was arrested on a battery charge, which was pending in court Thursday.
On Wednesday, Constance Smith was placed in an interview room with Nathan Smith, and investigators played the recorded statements that he made after his arrest.
"I guess you did it this time," she said.