Alleged teen killer might seek verdict of manslaughter


POSTED: Saturday, February 06, 2010

In the face of overwhelming evidence against him and his confession to police, accused killer Vernon Bartley apparently is seeking a manslaughter verdict.

Bartley, 17, is on trial in state court on murder, sexual assault and other charges for the May 25, 2007, strangulation death of his neighbor, 51-year-old Karen Ertell.

He was 15 years old at the time. However, he is being tried as an adult because the state Family Court waived its jurisdiction.

The state has so far sought to portray Bartley as a coldblooded killer who planned the attack, lay in wait to ambush his victim and appeared to his friends unaffected after the killing. The state even presented evidence that it believes demonstrates to what lengths Bartley went to kill Ertell.

Police found fresh feces in a bucket in the carport where Bartley said he waited in the early-morning hours for Ertell to leave her home.

; Bartley admitted choking Ertell until she stopped moving and breathing, said police homicide Detective Gregory McCormick. And he said Bartley admitted planning his crime two days in advance.

However, under questioning by Bartley's lawyer, Jeffrey Hawk, McCormick said Bartley claimed he did not plan to kill Ertell.

Bartley said he planned “;to sneak in her house and grab the keys,”; according to the transcript of his police interview two days after Ertell's death.

Hawk did not give an opening statement to reveal Bartley's defense.

However, from Hawk's cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, it appears Bartley might also try to claim that Ertell did not die in the carport where he said he applied a triangle choke hold on her.

Hawk asked every witness who recovered or saw Ertell's body lying face down on her bed for evidence she may have died there rather than in the carport.

The Honolulu medical examiner says Ertell died of asphyxia due to manual strangulation.

The nonjury trial will resume Friday when the state presents its final witness, the defendant's mother, Jillian Bartley. She was present when her son confessed to police that he killed Ertell.

The defense is not expected to present any witnesses.