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Stabbing motive debated in court

The defense attorney says the victim made a sexual advance and the teenager "flipped."

By JOSE CARDENAS, Times Staff Writer
Published November 14, 2007


That Blake Stryker stabbed his neighbor Jennie Dianne Hartley to death is not in question.

The question is why.

During opening statements in Stryker's first-degree murder trial Tuesday, prosecutors did not offer a motive to explain why the 17-year-old killed a woman who once babysat him.

But they did contend that the time it took for Stryker to stab Hartley 50 times helps point to a premeditated act.

"The second one was on her abdomen," Assistant State Attorney Frank Piazza told jurors. "She received 14 stabs on her back alone. ... Thirty was on top of her head. The back of her neck was 47 and 48. She was still alive at 50."

Defense attorneys did not dispute that Stryker killed Hartley, 47.

But they said Stryker was sexually molested by an older female relative as a child. So when Hartley made a sexual advance toward him that night and produced a knife, Stryker lost control and killed her with her own knife, they said.

"She attempted to have sexual contact with him, and he flipped," defense attorney Serbo Simeoni told jurors.

Hartley was stabbed June 10, 2006, just inside her home on the 1200 block of 74th Street N in St. Petersburg. She had lived next to Stryker for years. He had helped bury her dog days before she was killed.

On Tuesday, Stryker, now 19, sat behind the defense table in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court in a white shirt and red tie wearing glasses. If convicted, he could get life in prison.

The evidence will include an interview Stryker gave police and the testimony of friends with whom he spoke after Hartley's death, Piazza said.

Stryker's basic story was that he went out of his home at 2 a.m. to visit a friend but the friend was not home, Piazza said. On his way back home, he saw Hartley outside her house.

Stryker asked her for two glasses of water and to go to the bathroom, Stryker told investigators. When he returned from her bathroom she hugged him and made the advance and pulled the knife. He said they wrestled for the knife and he stabbed her.

But several details in the stories he told police and friends were inconsistent, Piazza told jurors. One inconsistency was the weapon he said he used. He told one friend that he used his pocketknife.

He told another friend that he was doing powder cocaine, looking for something, and "I stabbed her."

Regarding the alleged sexual advance by Hartley, "there's two sides to a story," Piazza said. "You are going to get one story from Mr. Stryker. The other you're not going to get."

Defense attorneys said months before the stabbing Stryker had confided in a "professional" that he had been molested by an adult female relative.

The night of the killing, attorneys argued, Hartley was depressed because her dog had died. She asked for sex.

The "frenzied" style of the wounds did not indicate premeditation, Simeoni said.

Rather, after about 15 stabs, Stryker "blacked out" and finished the attack without being aware, he said.

The trial continues today.

Jose Cardenas can be reached at jcardenas@sptimes.com or 727 445-4224.