But he said teen died accidentally when she attacked him after sex
By Rafael A. Olmeda
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
October 18, 2008
First, he lied about everything.
Then Jason Hartley told a Fort Lauderdale police detective that he found the body of Neica Marie Gibbs, 14, near the trailer where he lives.
Later, in a videotaped statement shown by his attorney Friday, Hartley, 15, tearfully admitted Gibbs was with him when she died. But he said her death was an accident.
Hartley, 15, is being charged as an adult with second-degree murder in the June 28 death of Gibbs and could face life in prison if convicted.
In his 90-minute interview with Detective John Curcio, recorded July 24, Hartley initially said he and Gibbs had sex and that she left his trailer.
Then he claimed he found Gibbs dead and hid her body out of fear he would be held responsible for her death.
"Why didn't you just call 911?" Curcio asked.
"I was scared," Hartley responded. After further questioning, Hartley leaned in toward Curcio.
"You're trying to make me say I did kill her," he said.
"I'm trying to get you to tell the truth," Curcio said. "That's all I want from you, man."
Sobbing, gulping for air and sometimes struggling to get his words out, Hartley finally said he agreed to pay Gibbs for the sexual encounter, but that she got angry because he didn't have any money on him. She threatened him, Hartley said, and then got violent, attacking him with a piece of a broken vacuum cleaner in Hartley's bedroom.
Hartley said he fought back, and that in the struggle, a strap hanging on a treadmill ended up wrapped around the girl's neck.
Before Hartley could make sense of what was happening, he said, the girl stopped moving.
"She fell to the ground," he said, crying almost uncontrollably. "I checked her arm. She wasn't breathing."
Afraid no one would believe it was an accident, Hartley said he put Gibbs' body in a tarp and lugged it outside on a dolly to a trash bin.
No one saw him, he said, contradicting an 11-year-old friend who, in a sworn deposition, told the same detective he saw Hartley and touched the body through the tarp, not knowing what was underneath.
Hartley's lawyer, George Reres, said Hartley never intended to kill Gibbs.
"He had a long-term crush on the girl," Reres said.
In the video, Hartley tells the detective his sexual encounter with Gibbs was his first with anyone.
Gibbs was missing for three weeks before her body was found. Hartley was arrested soon afterward.
"The totality of the evidence proves this was not an accident," Assistant State Attorney Maria Schneider wrote in e-mail to the Sun Sentinel. "I believe that an impartial jury will see this quite clearly."
Staff Writer Joel Marino contributed to this report. Rafael Olmeda can be reached at rolmeda@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4694.