SUMMERFIELD, Fla. – When Seath Tyler Jackson received a text message from a 15-year-old ex-girlfriend saying she wanted to rekindle their romance and that they should meet at a central Florida house, a female friend of Jackson's sensed something wasn't right.
"I wouldn't fall for that," 16-year-old Brittnay Jones told Jackson, she recalled to The Associated Press.
The 15-year-old Jackson ignored his friend's advice and went Sunday to the house in Summerfield, about 65 miles northwest of Orlando. There, authorities said, he was fatally beaten and shot by members of a group of teens and adults. Then, Jackson's body was stuffed into a sleeping bag and burned, and the remains were put in paint buckets and dumped at a remote lime rock pit, authorities allege.
Marion County sheriff's detectives said the way the defendants carried out the crime was "unlike anything they had ever seen."
Authorities, as well as family and friends, said Jackson had fought recently with one of the suspects, 18-year-old Michael Bargo, who was dating Jackson's ex-girlfriend.
Bargo and the girl were among six people, who range in age from 15 to 37, who were arrested Tuesday night in connection with Jackson's gruesome death. Five were charged with first-degree murder and one, a 37-year-old man who is the stepfather of the girl and another juvenile defendant, was charged with being an accessory after the fact.
Investigators were searching Wednesday afternoon for remains in both the fire and lime rock pits. They were also searching for the murder weapon, a .22-caliber revolver.
Investigators said Bargo and some friends began plotting Jackson's death after the two fought several weeks ago, and that things moved quickly.
The plan called for Bargo's girlfriend to text Jackson, telling him that she wanted to get back together and that he should meet her at her house, authorities said.
Brittnay Jones told the AP that Jackson told her about the texts. Jackson's Facebook postings in early March displayed affection toward the girl whom he'd dated, but they turned angry toward the end of the month.
When Jackson arrived Sunday afternoon, investigators say, Bargo and the 16-year-old brother of the girl jumped him, beating him with an ax handle and other wooden items.
Bargo then shot Jackson several times, several defendants told investigators. When Jackson tried to escape, they said, 20-year-old Justin Soto held him down while Bargo shot him again. Bargo allegedly beat Jackson's kneecaps in a bathtub, shooting him again when he showed signs of life. Afterward, some group members hog-tied Jackson and put his body in a sleeping bag, which was placed in the backyard fire pit and burned for several hours.
His ashes were then put into 5-gallon paint cans, driven to a remote lime rock pit and apparently thrown into it, authorities said. The house was then scoured with bleach to get rid of the blood.
James Young Havens III, 37, the stepfather of Bargo's girlfriend and her brother, told investigators he arrived after the slaying and helped them put the ashes into the paint cans and get rid of other evidence.
Jackson's parents reported him missing Monday, thinking he had run away. Authorities said they learned of the slaying Tuesday when Haven's wife called investigators to say her 16-year-old son had witnessed the slaying.
Bargo, Soto, Charlie Kay Ely — an 18-year-old who allegedly helped with the plot — and the minor siblings were arrested hours later and charged with first-degree murder. They were being held without bond Wednesday. The AP is not identifying the minors because of their age.
Haven is charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder and was being held on $10,000 bond.
Phone messages left by the AP at listings for Bargo, Havens, Ely and Soto were not returned Wednesday. A phone number listed for the victim's parents was not in service. A woman who was standing outside the victim's home about three miles from the attack site told an AP reporter to leave.
Lacy Lyons, 18, described Jackson as a "good kid" who did well in school.
"He had the cutest little smile," Lyons said.
Court records show that Bargo had earlier charges of burglary and grand theft. Another court record showed that a woman had sought an injunction against Bargo to protect her son. The woman's phone number has been disconnected.
Bargo's attorney for that case, Charles Holloman, said his client did not have a violent track record.
"He's had his scraps, just like a lot of kids growing up, but certainly nothing that rises to this level," Holloman said.
Jones, the friend who tried to stop Jackson from going to the house, said the killing should never have happened.
"It's just boys and their stupid fights," Jones said. "It's just who wants to be the bigger man."
Associated Press writers Christine Armario and Suzette Laboy contributed to this report from Miami.
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