Teenager found guilty of murdering neighbor


POSTED: Friday, March 05, 2010

A state judge found confessed teenage killer Vernon Bartley guilty yesterday of murder.

Bartley, 17, told police he choked his neighbor, 51-year-old Karen Ertell, in the carport of her Ewa Beach home on May 25, 2007, until she stopped moving and breathing. He also told police he did not plan to kill Ertell, but to steal her car keys.

His lawyer, Jeffrey Hawk, said in closing arguments yesterday that Bartley should be found guilty of manslaughter, not murder.

“;Vernon Bartley did not intend to kill Karen in her garage,”; he said. “;He just choked her for too long.”;

Hawk said after Bartley strangled Ertell, he watched pornography on her home computer and had sex with her corpse.

;[Preview]  Judge makes decision on Bartley's case

Vernon Bartley was accused of strangling and raping Karen Ertell, who was supposed to testify against him for allegedly breaking into her home.


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“;There is nothing sympathetic about the defendant's conduct that day,”; said Douglas Chin, first deputy prosecutor. “;He went over to her house, he waited for her, he strangled her, he violated her, he cleaned up the evidence, he took her possessions and then he went off and celebrated.”;

While waiting to ambush Ertell, Chin said Bartley defecated in a bucket in the carport rather than walk across the street to his family's home to use the bathroom.

;  In addition to murder, Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall found Bartley guilty of burglary, unauthorized use of Ertell's computer, stealing her car and other items and stealing, possessing and attempting to use Ertell's credit cards.

Crandall found Bartley not guilty of sexually assaulting Ertell because she said the state did not prove Ertell was alive when Bartley had sex with her.

Hawk said Bartley had no reaction when Crandall handed down her verdicts.

“;He's never had a reaction to anything,”; he said.

Bartley kept his head down throughout the nonjury trial rather than face any of the witnesses or view the evidence.

He was 15 years old when he killed Ertell. The state Family Court waived jurisdiction, allowing the state to prosecute him as an adult.

Bartley faces a mandatory life prison term with the opportunity for parole for the murder.

Crandall has scheduled sentencing for May. However, Chin said he intends to seek an extended sentence of life in prison without the opportunity for parole because Bartley committed multiple crimes.

Before Crandall can consider the more severe penalty, a jury must determine whether Bartley is eligible for it. Or he could waive his right to a jury as he did for the trial and let Crandall decide.

Bartley is in custody at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility in Kailua for burglarizing Ertell's home before the murder.

He was scheduled to be released when he turns 18 next month if he could post $500,000 bail for the murder case.

Crandall revoked the bail yesterday, guaranteeing Bartley's transfer into adult custody pending his sentencing.