Teen found guilty of murdering neighbor, victim's family... - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Teen found guilty of murdering neighbor, victim's family expresses relief

Vernon Bartley Vernon Bartley
Karen Ertell Karen Ertell
Douglas Chin Douglas Chin
Malanie McLellan Malanie McLellan
Kevin Callahan Kevin Callahan

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Prosecutors plan to seek Hawaii's stiffest punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole for an Ewa Beach teen convicted of murdering his neighbor. Vernon Bartley, 17, had no visible reaction to the guilty verdict Thursday.

The timing of the verdict came as a shock to many. Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall returned with her decision less than an hour after hearing closing arguments in the trial.

Vernon Bartley will turn 18 next month and will already be a convicted murderer.

"It's kind of surreal because I feel like I've been waiting so long for this verdict and so long for someone to actually just say that he is guilty," Malanie McLellan, victim's foster daughter, said.

Prosecutors say the thing that triggered Bartley's "complete moral breakdown" was the victim's upcoming testimony against him in a burglary case.

Karen Ertell, 51, was strangled in the carport of her home. Bartley, who was 15, then dragged her to her bedroom, had sex with her, cleaned up, watched porn on her computer, and took off with her ATM and credit cards, and vehicle.

"Karen Ertell did absolutely nothing wrong," Douglas Chin, first deputy prosecutor, said. "She was completely attacked out of the blue. She was degraded. She was humiliated. All of these things are things that we need to seek justice for."

The defense argued Bartley was guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter because he was simply struggling with the victim for her keys and wasn't intending to kill her.

"I'm not here to argue that Vernon Bartley is a saint," Jeff Hawk, defense attorney, said. "I'm not here to argue that Vernon Bartley should be set free. I'm here to say that Vernon has been accused of some crimes that he did not commit."

The judge convicted the young defendant on seven counts, including murder, burglary, unauthorized computer access, car theft, and credit card fraud.

But Crandall found him not guilty of robbery as well as sex assault, saying prosecutors didn't prove the victim was still alive when the sexual acts took place.

"I'm grateful that at least he was found guilty of the most important thing, which is murder," McLellan said.

"We've waited in agony for two years and nine months for this to get done," Kevin Callahan, victim's boyfriend, said. "There's been a lot of court proceedings and the wait was quite horrible. So it's a huge relief to us that the verdict is in and it's the correct verdict."

Prosecutors plan to seek the extended sentence of life without the possibility of parole because of the multiple offenses involved.

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