MARION COUNTY, Fla. - In a surprise move, suspected killer Michael Bargo took the stand Monday in his Marion County murder trial.
Both the prosecution and defense rested on Friday and closing arguments were set to begin Monday, but Bargo was asked if he wanted to testify and he chose to do just that, taking the stand for more than two hours.
"Mr. Bargo, do you want to testify in this trial?" asked the judge.
"Yes, I do," he replied.
Bargo is accused of masterminding the 2011 death of 15-year-old Seath Jackson because of a dispute over a girl, Amber Wright.
Investigators said Bargo and four others lured Jackson to a home, beat him, shot him and then dismembered his body. After that, authorities said the group burned the remains, stashed them in paint buckets and dumped them in a rock quarry.
During testimony on Monday, Bargo attempted to steer motivation for the killing away from himself and toward one of his co-defendants, Kyle 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.
"I realize this holster doesn't weigh as much as it should. This is a heavy gun," Bargo said.
In fact, Bargo claimed he wasn't even there when Jackson was killed. He told the jury he had returned home to find a large bonfire and people cleaning the home with bleach.
"When I came home, the body was already in the fire. That's what they were telling me," said Bargo.
Bargo went on to say that he only helped dispose of the remains.
"I didn't know what to do. I freaked out," Bargo said.
Bargo claims he was misunderstood in the days after the killing and that the others conspired to put the blame on him, something prosecutors confronted him with on several times.
"Everybody framed you, right?" prosecutors asked Bargo sarcastically.
"Yes," he replied.
Hooper went to the stand Monday afternoon, describing how he said Bargo planned out the murder and shot Jackson in a bathtub.
"He wanted to shoot him face to face, so he would know who killed him?" the prosecution asked Hooper.
"Yes, ma'am," said Hooper.
Hooper also told jurors Bargo convinced him to help beat the 15-year-old.
Toward the end of the day, the defense confronted Hooper about his anger and got him to admit he was mad at Jackson and had made threats.
"You sent a text you were going to kill Seath Jackson, didn't you?" the defense asked.
"Yes," Hooper responded.
Closing arguments are expected Tuesday.