A Central Islip man admitted Tuesday that he strangled his neighbor to death and then tried to use an ax to decapitate the corpse before hiding the body in his bedroom closet, Suffolk County prosecutors said Jan. 28.
Aston Barth's murder trial was set to begin Tuesday morning at the Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverhead, but the 34-year-old unexpectedly pleaded guilty just before opening statements.
He admitted in court Tuesday to killing his neighbor, Jason Campbell, 35, when the two had an argument in Barth's home on Ferndale Boulevard last year. A week later, on Christmas Eve in 2012, Barth's mother and brother found Campbell's lifeless body in a bedroom closet and called police.
After his arrest, Barth told detectives that he used an ax to try to decapitate Campbell before wrapping his body in a blanket and trash bag and stuffing the corpse in his bedroom closet.
"He said he struck him once in the neck with an ax and then decided not to do it or realized he couldn't do it," Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock said after Barth's arraignment last year.
Members of Campbell's family were in court Tuesday and "expressed relief" that they would not be forced to testify at a trial, a district attorney's office advisory said.
Barth remains held without bail. He is expected to be sentenced to 15 years to life behind bars when he is sentenced on Feb. 26.