Michael Bargo found guilty of first-degree murder

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MARION COUNTY, Fla. - A Marion County jury found Michael Bargo guilty Tuesday of first-degree murder in the killing of 15-year-old Seath Jackson over a rivalry involving a girlfriend.

The jury deliberated for three hours before coming back with a guilty verdict for the 21-year-old.

"We the jury find the defendant, Michael Shane Bargo Jr., guilty of murder in the first degree."

Bargo sat stoic as the guilty verdict came down. The sentencing phase of his trial is scheduled to begin on Friday.

Four people are already serving life sentences in the case -- Amber Wright, Charlie Kay Ely, Justin Soto and Kyle Hooper -- but prosecutors said Bargo was the ringleader and triggerman.

Prosecutors said Bargo masterminded the murder because of a dispute over Wright.

"Michael Bargo wanted Seath Jackson dead," said prosecutor Amy Berndt. "He planned out this murder and he carried it out."

In closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutors laid out the case, saying the murder was premeditated and Bargo convinced Wright to lure Jackson to a home using text messages.

Once there, Bargo and the others beat Jackson, shot him and then dismembered his body. After that, the group burned the remains, stashed them in paint buckets and dumped them in a rock quarry.

In a surprise move, Bargo took the stand Monday and attempted to steer motivation for the killing toward Hooper.

"I know how Kyle can get. He's real short-tempered," said Bargo. "He's pissed because (his girlfriend) left him."

Bargo told jurors on the day Jackson died, Hooper was angry because he believed Jackson had slept with a girl he liked.

Bargo testified that day someone had stolen his gun, which is the gun investigators said was used to kill Jackson.

On Tuesday, Bargo's attorney conceded his client is not an innocent man.

"To second-degree murder, he's guilty as hell," said defense attorney Charles Holloman. "There's no question about that."

He argued the state didn't prove premeditation and that there's no proof Bargo had anything to do with the text messages.

Bargo didn't look happy when his attorney asked jurors to convict him of second-degree murder, but it apparently wasn't enough to sway jurors anyway.

Second-degree murder would have taken the death penalty off the table.  On Friday, there will be a sentencing hearing to determine if Bargo will get the death penalty.