A New York man has admitted he killed a 35-year-old friend and neighbor during an argument, attempted to chop up his body with an axe and hid it in his home.
Aston Barth, 34, faces a prison sentence of 15 years to life after he pleaded guilty Tuesday to the murder and partial decapitation of Jason Campbell 13 months ago, authorities said.
Barth's plea was unexpected and came just before the start of opening arguments in his homicide trial.
"Taking the plea was better than going to trial and risking 25 to life," Barth's defense attorney, Scott Gross, told reporters outside the courthouse.
According to the Suffolk County District Attorney's office, Barth confessed to killing Campbell during an argument at his Long Island home in December 2012. Barth admitted he used an axe to partially decapitate the victim and said he wrapped the body in a blanket and hid it in his closet, officials said.
Barth's mother and brother reportedly found the victim's body on Christmas Eve 2012 and notified police. A medical examiner later determined Campbell's death was caused by strangulation.
"My kids are going to grow up without a father," Campbell’s girlfriend, Latonya Mills, told reporters. "Whatever goes on, whatever he gets ... it's still not going to bring Jason back."
Campbell's mother, Norma Campbell, said the gruesome tragedy is constantly on her mind.
"I see it every day," she said. "I hear it in my head [and] I relive it."
Authorities said Barth, who was a longtime friend and neighbor of Campbell, has not provided them with a motive in the slaying.
Barth remains jailed without bail. He is expected to be sentenced on Feb. 26.