The Berkeley County man accused of killing his girlfriend last month claims he was defending himself when the knife pierced her chest, according to a 911 recording obtained by The Post and Courier.

Lee Dell Bradley, 59, called 911 on May 23 and said his girlfriend, 59-year-old Frances Lawrence, was dead.

"She grabbed a knife, I guess. Actually, she was trying to stab me," Bradley told the operator. "I was trying to take the knife from her, and she fell on it and it hit her in her chest."

When the operator asked if Bradley had called an ambulance the night before, he answered no.

"I got scared because I don't want them to think I did it," he said. "I didn't kill her."

Bradley remains behind bars at the Hill-Finklea Detention Center in Moncks Corner after a judge last week denied setting bail.

Berkeley County sheriff's investigators could not immediately be reached for comment about Bradley's claims.

Lawrence was found dead of a stab wound May 24 at her Bushy Lane home after Bradley told the 911 operator there had been a "freak accident" the night before.

Bradley has been arrested five times since 2006 after complaints that he beat or threatened to kill Lawrence, according to incident reports.

Lawrence reported to investigators that Bradley was intoxicated in at least three of the alleged attacks and that she feared for her life, according to incident reports.

After Lawrence's death, Bradley told the 911 operator he was on U.S. Highway 78 during the call and the operator asked him to stay on the line and to meet with deputies.

He was not at the home when authorities found Lawrence's body, dressed in a blood-soaked nightgown and lying on her back between the closet and bathroom, the report stated.

He was arrested in Charlotte and extradited Thursday to Berkeley County, where he was charged with murder.

Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or