New York ex-convict killed neighbor, hid body in closet, DA says

This undated photo provided by Suffolk County police shows Aston Barth. Prosecutors on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012 say Barth, 33, killed his friend and next-door neighbor Jason Campbell, tried to cut his head off with an ax and hid the body in his bedroom closet for nearly a week while keeping relatives and acquaintances at bay. Barth was being held without bail after pleading not guilty. (AP Photo/Suffolk County Police)
Aston Barth
AP Photo/Suffolk County Police

(CBS/AP) CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. - An ex-convict was held without bail Tuesday after pleading not guilty to murdering his next-door neighbor, trying to cut his head off with an ax and hiding the body in a bedroom closet in a Long Island home, a prosecutor said.

Aston Barth, 33, told investigators he choked 35-year-old Jason Campbell on Dec. 18 while the two argued in Barth's Central Islip bedroom, Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock said. Barth tried to slice off Campbell's head but either decided against it or realized he couldn't. It is unclear whether the victim was dead when Barth took an ax to his neck.

Barth wrapped the victim's body in a blanket, put it in the closet and told his family, "`Don't go into my room,"' Kurtzrock said.

The two men went to high school together, Newsday reported. Some of Campbell's friends went to Barth's house when Campbell disappeared to ask Barth whether he knew where Campbell was.

"He said, 'I haven't seen him. It's crazy that he's missing,'" Campbell's friend Sean Epps told Newsday.

Barth's relatives found Campbell's body on Monday and called police.

Barth initially told detectives he was worried about a potential death sentence, Kurtzrock said. After Barth was told that couldn't happen -- the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional in New York -- he made a videotaped confession and told police they could find the ax behind the bedroom door, the prosecutor said.

Barth's mother, Connie Barth, told Newsday he was treated for mental illness since childhood but refused help in recent years.

"I'm so sorry," she told the newspaper. "My son needed medication but he wouldn't take it. He would say, 'I can do this' without medication."

Barth was paroled in July 2011 after serving three years on a robbery conviction, state records show. He previously served three years on an attempted robbery conviction.

His mother said he was working as a chef at a restaurant, and was recently upset about making child support payments.

If convicted, Barth could face up to 25 years to life in prison.