26 Jul 2008
Sun-Sentinel Broward Edition
BY BRIAN HAAS, SALLIE JAMES AND MACOLLVIE JEAN-FRANÇOIS STAFF WRITERS FORT LAUDERDALE
Boy admits killing girl, police say
One was a pudgy 15-year-old boy with an anger problem. The other, a 14-year-old girl abandoned by her parents.
Police say the middle school students had sex and then Jason Hartley strangled Neica Marie Gibbs in anger after an argument. “I know he had some anger problems,” Hartley’s mother, Lorraine Boggess, said.
Fort Lauderdale police arrested Hartley Thursday night on a murder charge and say he confessed to killing Gibbs on June 28 and stashing her body next to a garbage bin in the Azalea Trailer Colony in the 2700 block of Southwest Sixth Drive where he lived.
Gibbs was reported missing the next day. Her body sat by the bin for three weeks until two women investigating a foul smell found it. Boggess was one of them. On Friday, Hartley appeared before a Broward County juvenile court judge. Hartley, a short boy with blond curls and a frown, didn’t speak at the hearing, where the judge said there was enough evidence to hold him at least 30 days until another hearing.
His public defender, George Reres, said after the hearing that he hadn’t talked to the boy about the case, but hoped he would be charged as a juvenile. Prosecutors will decide that in the coming weeks.
"He's very sullen. He appears to be depressed, withdrawn," Reres said. Hartley's mother worried for her son's future but said: "I was always told, 'You do something wrong, you pay for it.'"
Hartley and Gibbs met a few years ago through a friend. She sometimes spent weeks at a time in the Azalea Trailer Colony, staying at the friend's trailer. Neighbors and relatives said Hartley had a huge crush on the girl.
Neighbors gave different pictures of Hartley. Some said he was helpful to his mother, running errands and watching his younger brother. Others said he was trouble.
"Sometimes he was a good child, sometimes he was a bad child. Most of the time he was a bad child," said Lorraine Pendergrass, Boggess' friend and neighbor. "I told Lorraine, 'Something's wrong with your son. You need to take him and have his head examined.
'"His mother said he was angry, largely because his father left when Hartley was 5.
"The divorce me and his dad went through, his dad not wanting to see him — come on, that's going to affect him," Boggess said. "Because his dad hasn't seen him since he's been 5. Sure he's angry."
She said her children were removed by the state on one occasion, but didn't elaborate. The Florida Department of Children & Families confirmed the removal, but would not provide details.
Gibbs' family life also was turbulent. Her parents lost custody of her in 1997 and she has since lived with her grandmother, Barbara Queer, a few miles from the Azalea Trailer Colony.
Hartley told a reporter Thursday before his arrest that he had been friends with Gibbs for about five years.
"She was a nice, kind girl. She was generous," Hartley said at the time. Hartley said when he last saw her she talked about running away because of problems at home.
"We talked about sh--, excuse my French," Hartley said.
Hartley even told reporters that the last time he saw Gibbs, she was going to the Diamond Girls beauty supply store and then to the movies with someone.
When Gibbs went missing, the neighborhood mobilized. Pendergrass said Hartley volunteered. On Friday, she couldn't believe the boy accused of killing Gibbs aided in her search.
"That boy helped me put up fliers," she said.
As time passed, the smell at the garbage bin grew stronger. Residents figured it was a dead animal, but Pendergrass and Boggess decided to investigate Tuesday. There, they found Gibbs' body under a blue tarp. It was only 86 feet from Pendergrass' trailer, the last place Gibbs was reported alive.Everyone assumed Gibbs was murdered. But who would do such a thing?
Boggess told a reporter on Thursday that whoever put the body there must have known the trash schedule.
"It was deliberately put there," Boggess said at the time. "Whoever threw her there knew the routine."
About 5 p.m. Thursday, the phone rang inside her trailer. Hartley, who was playing video games inside, grabbed the phone and brought it to his mother who was still talking to a reporter outside the trailer.
"Here mom, it's Breen," he said, referring to Fort Lauderdale homicide Detective Mark Breen.
Boggess spoke with the detective, told him she was tired from the whole affair and then hung up. She yelled to her son who had gone back inside."Pause the game, Jase," Boggess said. "We gotta go to the police station. You and me, we gotta be interrogated."
For every incident where a father was present and a gruesome murder occured, where fathers and mothers were present in the life of the person, and actively involved in their life - there are ten cases where a father was absent.
Imagine how many people would be alive today.