Confessed killer Vernon Bartley apologized to the family and friends of victim Karen Ertell in state court yesterday before a judge imposed a life prison sentence.
"I’m sorry for what I’ve done. I would do anything for you guys. Forgive me," Bartley said.
Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall sentenced Bartley, 18, to life in prison plus 10 years, with the opportunity for parole, for the May 2007 strangulation of his Ewa Beach neighbor Karen Ertell, 51.
It is the sentence to which Bartley had agreed to avoid the possibility of a life prison sentence without parole.
Crandall also ordered Bartley to repay the state’s crime victim compensation fund $2,702 and fined him $1,050.
Bartley was 15 when he admitted to police that he ambushed Ertell in her carport and choked her from behind until she stopped breathing. The state prosecuted him as an adult because the state Family Court waived its jurisdiction.
Ertell’s sister, Robyn Dunlap, heard Bartley apologize yesterday but said she was not sure he meant what he said.
"I’d like to believe he was sincere, but I don’t know him. I don’t know," Dunlap said.
She said she feel’s Bartley’s father, Petelo Bartley, was sincere in his apology to the family, as well as the man who identified himself as Vernon Bartley’s uncle who approached her, her mother and her brother outside the courtroom after the sentencing.
"I could sense true pain in him," Dunlap said. "It’s a tragic situation, not just for our family, but theirs as well."
Crandall told Bartley that he committed a brutal act. But because of his age, there is a possibility for his rehabilitation, and the prison sentence allows for that, Crandall said.
Ertell’s mother, Irene Ertell, told Crandall she does not believe Bartley should be given a chance to victimize anyone else. Ertell’s brother Kevin and her best friend, Bonnie Cordeirro, told Bartley that if he ever goes before the parole board to ask for parole, they will be there to ask the board not to let him out of prison.
Ertell’s foster daughter, Malanie McClellan, told Bartley that if he truly is remorseful, he would accept his sentence and not ask for parole.
The prosecutor who handled the trial has said he will ask the Hawaii Paroling Authority to require Bartley to spend at least 100 years behind bars.
Following a nonjury trial, Crandall found Bartley guilty in March of murder; burglary; unauthorized use of Ertell’s computer; stealing her car and other items; and stealing, possessing and attempting to use Ertell’s credit cards.
Bartley had burglarized Ertell’s home before, but Ertell gave him the opportunity to pay her back for what he stole by having him do some yardwork. When he burglarized her home again, Ertell reported the crime to authorities.
Ertell was scheduled to testify against Bartley in Family Court when Bartley killed her.