HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu prosecutors on Wednesday withdrew their extended sentencing request for an Ewa Beach teen who murdered his neighbor three years ago. Under extended sentencing, Vernon Bartley, 18, faced life in prison without the possibility of parole.
More than three years after the brutal death of her mother, Malanie McLellan's emotional wounds are far from healed.
"When my son wants to go to a restaurant that my mother loved, you know, little things like that I think I'm never going to see her again," the victim's foster daughter said through tears.
Bartley was 15 years old when he strangled Karen Ertell, 51, in the carport of her home, dragged her to her bedroom, had sex with her, and stole her credit cards and vehicle. Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall in March convicted the defendant on seven counts, including murder, burglary, unauthorized computer access and car theft.
The judge acquitted him of sexual assault, saying prosecutors didn't prove the victim was still alive when the sexual acts took place.
"Going in front of the parole board, our main argument is going to be that, at the time of the offense, he was 15 years old," Jeff Hawk, defense attorney, said. "He was not the person that you see today. He was a small, very young, very immature individual."
The young killer will have a shot at parole after reaching a sentencing deal with prosecutors. In exchange for the chance of release, Bartley agreed to give up his right to challenge the verdict and the waiver of jurisdiction from Family Court to adult court.
"That's always been a concern for us, that if this case were actually to go up on appeal, the issues would be scrutinized very carefully, that being because he'd be a juvenile who's looking at a life sentence," Douglas Chin, acting city prosecutor, said.
The deal locks in the punishment of life with parole for the murder, plus a 10-year prison term for the other six counts. The Hawaii Paroling Authority will ultimately decide how much time Bartley must serve before he can be considered for release.
"Naturally, I think an extremely long time would be fair," McLellan said. "I mean, my mother can't come back."
Prosecutors say the deal doesn't stop them from asking for a lengthy minimum term.
The victim's family will have a chance to address the killer when he is formally sentenced October 18th.