Sentence is life in stabbing death
The teenager killed a neighbor who used to babysit
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
"She had her fears," said Alethea Pike, 83, who dog-sat
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
Stryker knew Hartley for more than a decade, police
said. Investigators declined to discuss possible motives, citing an
Stryker, who turns 18 in July, was on probation for
misdemeanor possession of marijuana. He faces a first-degree murder
"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
"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
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
The detectives said they hope the tipsters call again.
Hartley, who had a daughter and four grandchildren,
Her family said she suffered from back ailments and
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
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.