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Man who shot kidnappers recounts ordeal in Pinellas trial

LARGO — Gregory Longley thought the teens coming toward him just wanted cigarettes.

Then one pulled a gun. He was coming with them, they said.

From the back seat of the Chevy Malibu, Longley tried to stay calm.

He listened as they talked about how they were going to go back to the motel, where they were going to kill his friend and then him. And he tried to figure out an escape.

Then the man with the gun took his hand off the weapon to type a text message. Longley grabbed the gun and shot the teen sitting next to him, killing him, then shot and wounded a teen in the front seat.

Then he ran.

Longley recounted the ordeal calmly Wednesday as he testified against the teen in the front seat, who survived.

Juan Carlos Morales, 19, is on trial for the death of Javon Strange, the other teen Longley shot that Sunday in September 2008.

When Morales, Strange and their friend Abdusbasiyr Blake kidnapped Longley, the three committed a felony, prosecutors said. In Florida, that means Morales and Blake can be held responsible for Strange's death. Both Morales and Blake are charged with felony second-degree murder. Blake is scheduled for trial next month.

Longley faces no charges because he was acting in self-defense.

Wednesday, Morales and his attorneys tried to persuade the jury that the foster kid from Tampa had a limited role in what happened that night.

Testifying in his own defense, Morales said he came along with Blake that night for one reason.

"Because he asked me to," Morales said, adding that the two were foster brothers and he didn't want to let him down.

The teens were upset. Blake believed that another friend, Sean Gerstmann, had stolen some rare coins from him. Morales said he knew Blake wanted to fight with Gerstmann.

That night, Blake, Morales and Strange went driving. They headed to Oldsmar, where they thought Gerstmann was.

Blake called Gerstmann. He could hear a TV in the background. When Blake called back later, Gerstmann's girlfriend said he was in the shower.

Morales said they figured that Gerstmann, who was homeless, had to be in a hotel if he was watching TV and showering. And they knew of three hotels in Oldsmar, two they thought were too pricey for Gerstmann. They headed to the third.

At the Aday Motel, Longley and Gerstmann were hanging out.

When Longley stepped outside to call his girlfriend, Blake and Strange walked up, thinking at first that it was Gerstmann. At gunpoint, they led him to the car, Longley said.

Morales said he was just as clueless about what was happening as Longley.

Longley said otherwise: In his version, Morales opened the car door and told him not to do anything because they had two guns.

From there, Blake drove to a parking garage. At some point, Gerstmann called Longley and the three teens decided to go and meet him. This is when Strange took his hand off the gun to text, and when Longley grabbed the gun and shot him.

"I wasn't sure if Morales was going for his weapon or not, but at that point I wasn't willing to take a chance so I shot Morales," Longley said, explaining the second shot.

Closing arguments are set to begin today.

Sara Gregory can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or sgregory@sptimes.com.

Man who shot kidnappers recounts ordeal in Pinellas trial 07/14/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 11:08pm]
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