• Michael Bargo's grandmother says she witnessed abuse


    MARION COUNTY, Fla. - A Marion County jury was back in court Friday to begin the penalty phase for Michael Bargo, who was found guilty Tuesday of first-degree murder in the killing of 15-year-old Seath Jackson.

    Bargo took the stand on Friday, telling the jury, "I was growing up, I didn't have a chance to even go to friends' houses. Every time I got money, I literally went out and bought liquor."

    Bargo told jurors about his life spinning out of the control just before the murder and about depression in his childhood.

    The defense claims Bargo was traumatized by his parents' divorce and was abused by his mother.

    Bargo's grandmother said she witnessed the abuse firsthand.

    The grandmother said she Bargo's mother beat him and other times she saw him with bruises on his body.

    "She had him on the couch, and she hit him in the back, and beating him in the shoulder," she said.

    But prosecutors said the killing was calculated and premeditated.

    "It's something more than premeditation," said prosecutor Amy Berndt.

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

    "Before Seath Jackson was killed, they planned out how they were going to dispose of his body: They were going to burn it in the fire pit," said Berndt.

    The defense, however, argued Bargo had a bad upbringing with abuse and was traumatized by his parents' divorce.

    "Eventually the Department of Children and Families got involved and counseled (his) parents about sabotaging their son," said defense attorney Candace Hawthorne.

    Former neighbors of Bargo's from Michigan testified said they never saw abuse.

    Former neighbor Amanda Christiansen was asked if the Bargo family seemed normal, to which she answered, "Yes."

    The defense also called a brain-imaging expert, who testified Bargo likely has an abnormal brain that makes it difficult to control impulses and rage.

    Prosecutors said Bargo masterminded the killing, and that he and four others lured Jackson to a home, beat him, shot him to death, dismembered his body and burned the remains, and then stuffed them in paint buckets and dumped them in a rock quarry.

    Bargo now faces the death penalty, though the defense's aim is for the jury to recommend life in prison.

    Prosecutors told jurors that besides proving the killing was "cold, calculated and premeditated," they'll also prove it was "heinous, atrocious and cruel."

    Those factors could make Bargo eligible for the death penalty.

    The four people already serving life sentences in the case are Amber Wright, Charlie Kay Ely, Justin Soto and Kyle Hooper.

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    Michael Bargo's grandmother says she witnessed abuse