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Blake Carter STRYKER





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (17)
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 10, 2006
Date of arrest: 4 days after
Date of birth: July 20, 1988
Victim profile: Jennie Dianne Hartley, 47 (his next-door neighbor)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife 50 times
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on November 16, 2007

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Sentence is life in stabbing death

The teenager killed a neighbor who used to babysit him.

By Jose Cardenas - St. Petersburg Times

November 17, 2007

A jury found a 19-year-old St. Petersburg man guilty of first-degree murder Friday for stabbing his next-door neighbor 50 times in June 2006.

Blake Stryker, who was 17 when he killed Jennie Dianne Hartley last year, was sentenced to life in prison by Circuit Judge Pamela Campbell.

Hartley's relatives said they were relieved by the outcome.

"I want every night of his life that he dreams of the scene that he caused," said Anne Hartley, 69, the victim's mother, who found her daughter's body. "I want him to feel the smell of decay every time he breathes. His soul is God's business."

Prosecutors accused Stryker of stabbing Hartley just inside her home in the 1200 block of 74th Street N in St. Petersburg. She had lived next to Stryker for years and used to babysit him. He had helped bury her dog days before she was killed.

Stryker never denied killing Hartley, 47. He told investigators he sneaked out of his house around 2 a.m. to visit a friend, who wasn't home. That's when he came across Hartley, who was outside her house around 3 a.m.

Stryker said he asked her for a glass of water and to use her bathroom. Styker said when he returned from the bathroom, Hartley made a sexual advance and produced a knife.

After wrestling for the knife, he killed her with her own weapon, Stryker said.

Prosecutors filed first-degree murder charges, saying the time it took for Stryker to stab Hartley 50 times pointed to a premeditated act

"It can be any length of time," said Assistant State Attorney Stephen O'Keefe told jurors during closing arguments. "You can plan this for six months. You can plan it for six seconds."

Defense attorneys asked jurors to return a second-degree murder or lesser charge, arguing the murder was not premeditated.

If Stryker was found guilty of second-degree murder, he would face about 20 years in prison instead of life.

The defense argued that when Hartley asked Stryker for sex, he flashed back to an incident where he was molested by an older female relative.

"If she's the mother figure, that can only mean one thing: betrayal," said defense attorney Edward Liebling.

Prosecutors denied Hartley made a sexual advance.

"There's no evidence he mistook (Hartley) for his (abuser)," said Assistant State Attorney Frank Piazza.

The defense argued that Stryker blacked out after the 15th stab and finished the attack unaware of what he was doing.

Prosecutors told jurors the reason Stryker killed Hartley was not important.

"We're not here about why," said Piazza. "We're here about what happened in that house."


Stabbing motive debated in court

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

By Jose Cardenas - St. Petersburg Times

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 boy next door

By Shadi Rahimi and Abi Raghunathan - Tampa Bay Times

Friday, June 16, 2006

She was the neighborhood recluse who posted "No Trespassing" signs on palm trees and built a wall of sand in her front yard to discourage intruders.

He was the teenager who neighborhood parents warned their kids about.

Still, Jennie Hartley, 47, trusted the boy next door, 17-year-old Blake Carter Stryker. She used to babysit him, and when her golden retriever died June 5 - her birthday - she asked him to bury the beloved pet.

But five days later, St. Petersburg police say, Stryker stabbed her 50 times and left her body in a heap just inside her front door, her nightgown torn to pieces.

Now one of the few people she trusted is accused of murdering her.

"It's an irony I still don't have my mind around," her brother, Roy Hartley, said Thursday.

Stryker's father, Bruce, said his son told him Hartley pulled a knife on him. He said his son stabbed Hartley so many times because he went into a "psychotic blackout."

"He's not a violent kid," he said.

Police say they have found no evidence to corroborate the father's story. But they also haven't established a motive.

"We may never be able to pin it down," said detective Rick Shaw. "Only he knows for sure and only she knows for sure."


Residents of the Azalea neighborhood called the Stryker home troubled.

Police went to the house at 1218 74th St. N five times in 2004, including once to make an arrest, records show.

"It's kind of known in the neighborhood that they were the kids you wouldn't want your kids hanging out with," said Sanford Luska, 54, a neighbor.

Bruce Stryker, 45, who says he runs an Internet retail business, has been arrested for grand theft, drunken driving, cocaine possession and spousal battery.

His second wife and Blake's mother, Jacqueline, died in 1997 at 33 of chronic alcoholism, according to the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office, three years after she and Bruce Stryker divorced.

Now a senior at Boca Ciega High, Blake was described by a former football coach as a loner.

"The kids would be grouped together on the sidelines, and Blake would be on the other end," said Frank Chenis, former head coach of Azalea Bulldogs Youth Football.


By the time Hartley moved into the small house at 1226 74th Street N around 1996, she had had two failed marriages. She couldn't work because of back pain from a car accident when she was 19. Her parents bought the house.

She rarely left her house. She didn't even leave windows open because she thought it might encourage intruders, neighbors said.

"She had her fears," said Alethea Pike, 83, who dog-sat for her.

When Hartley mistakenly received sand instead of topsoil from a construction project several years ago, she had it fashioned into a small wall around her front yard.


Late last Friday night or early Saturday, police said, Stryker slipped out his bedroom window to visit a friend. He told police he saw Hartley outside her house on his way home about 3:30 a.m. and went inside to use her bathroom.

What happened next is unknown.

Stryker's father said Hartley pulled a knife, which his son wrested away and used to stab her while defending himself.

Hartley's mother discovered her body Monday evening. Two days later, police say Stryker confessed.

Police said they have found no evidence that Hartley was sexually assaulted.


Student says he stabbed woman

Authorities say the 17-year-old told friends about the killing and that tips leading to him quickly followed.

By Shadi Rahimi - St. Petersburg Times

June 15, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - A 17-year-old high school senior was arrested Wednesday on charges that he killed his neighbor by stabbing her 50 times, police said.

Jennie Dianne Hartley, 47, was slain early Saturday in her home, police said.

Blake Carter Stryker, a student at Boca Ciega High School, confessed during police questioning Wednesday, said Detective Rick Shaw.

Stryker knew Hartley for more than a decade, police said. Investigators declined to discuss possible motives, citing an ongoing investigation.

Stryker, who turns 18 in July, was on probation for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. He faces a first-degree murder charge.

"It's unusual to see a kid this young commit such a murder," said Shaw, an arresting officer. "It was particularly brutal."

Stryker, his eyes and face red, cried as he sat inside a police car before he was transported to the Pinellas County Jail.

"I don't want to answer any questions at this time," he told reporters at St. Petersburg police headquarters. He wore long basketball shorts, sneakers and a white T-shirt.

The hunt for Hartley's killer began Monday evening after her mother discovered her body around 6 p.m. inside the doorway of her home at 1226 74th St. N.

Anonymous tips led police to Stryker's home at 1218 74th St. N Wednesday morning.

At first, Stryker denied involvement in the murder. Then his father, Bruce Stryker, told him to confess, saying the situation was "tearing apart their family," Shaw said.

After a half-hour of questioning, Stryker admitted killing Hartley, police said.

Stryker told Shaw and Detective Karl Sauer that he spotted his neighbor outside her home in their quiet Azalea neighborhood around 3:30 a.m. Saturday.

Stryker said he asked Hartley for a glass of water, drank it, then asked for another, police said. He drank that and asked to use her bathroom, police said.

He then stabbed her 50 times with a knife, police said.

Shaw said he "didn't want to go into" whether Hartley was sexually assaulted. He said robbery had not been completely ruled out, "but is not likely."

Stryker later threw the knife into Boca Ciega Bay and his clothes into several trash bins in Gulfport, police said.

Ninety minutes before Hartley's mother found her body, police received their first anonymous call about the killing.

The caller said "someone was dead or was going to be dead" near 13th Avenue N and 74th Street, Shaw said.

Police later found that Stryker told several friends he had killed a woman.

"At his confession, he was remorseful," Shaw said. "I don't know if he was remorseful when he was telling his friends."

The second anonymous tip came in around 8:30 p.m. Monday, "and they started naming names," said Shaw, declining to elaborate further.

The detectives said they hope the tipsters call again.

Hartley, who had a daughter and four grandchildren, lived alone.

Her family said she suffered from back ailments and was unemployed.

Her brother, Roy Hartley, said he had no reaction to news of the arrest and that the family was still in mourning. Asked if the arrest brought any closure, he said, "No, not yet."


Murder suspect may be tried as adult

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The state attorney's office says they may charge 17-year-old Blake Stryker as an adult on 1st-degree murder charges.

St. Petersburg police say Stryker has confessed to murdering Jennie Hartley, who lived next door to him.

Hartley's mother found her body in her home on 74th Street in St. Petersburg on Monday. The medical examiner said she'd been stabbed at least 50 times.

Officers arrested Stryker Wednesday. Anonymous tips led police to suspect Stryker and detectives say his father Bruce called them Wednesday morning and they questioned the teen in front of his father.

Offices say Blake confessed to murdering Hartely and tossing the murder weapon into Boca Ciega Bay.

Detective Rick Shaw of the St. Petersburg Police Department says Stryker told them he arrived home about 3:30 a.m. Saturday and that Hartley, 47, was outside and invited him inside her house. Shaw wouldn't comment on the motive.

Stryker is in the Pinellas County jail. He will not face the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the murder.



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