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Pasco man's fate rests in jurors' hands at murder trial

Justin Lee Naber, 27, right, speaks with his attorney, Geoffrey Cox, after his taped confession was played in court during his murder trial Wednesday. Authorities say he stabbed his roommate five times. Jurors will resume deliberations this morning.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Justin Lee Naber, 27, right, speaks with his attorney, Geoffrey Cox, after his taped confession was played in court during his murder trial Wednesday. Authorities say he stabbed his roommate five times. Jurors will resume deliberations this morning.

DADE CITY — Charles Haag regularly got drunk, used drugs and picked fights. That's what his roommate, Justin Lee Naber, told Pasco sheriff's detectives nearly two years ago after they found Haag's body wrapped in a blue tarp and lying at the bottom of a 150-foot ravine.

"He's not nothing like I thought he was," Naber told detectives, who charged the now 27-year-old with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Haag. "We had more arguments than I know what to do with."

Naber's comments were part of a nearly 90-minute audio-taped interview with sheriff's detectives a month after his ex-wife, Mysti Dickerson, tipped off authorities.

Prosecutors played it during Naber's trial, which began Monday. Naber did not take the stand.

Jurors deliberated slightly more than three hours Wednesday before breaking for the night. They are set to resume at 9 this morning.

In his statement, Naber said Haag, whom Dickerson had met while the two stayed at a homeless shelter, had fights in front of the children living in the mobile home they all shared off Fort King Road.

"Who wants a (expletive) junkie around two kids?" he said.

But Haag's theft of $300 that Naber and his ex-wife had saved to pay the rent had him seething with anger.

He said Haag "went on a drug binge" and came home "in a drunken rage."

Naber said he confronted Haag. He said he wanted him "to get clean." He said Haag attacked him with a knife he always carried.

"I went to town trying to defend myself," Naber said.

But prosecutors said Naber was the attacker.

Assistant State Attorney Stacey Sumner pointed to testimony from Pinellas-Pasco medical examiner Jon Thogmartin, who said Haag was stabbed five times, including once in a major artery.

Such a wound would have left him unconscious in about 60 seconds.

Naber's attorney, Geoffrey Cox, cited an injury to his client's finger that sent him to the emergency room.

He also pointed out that the autopsy showed Haag died with cocaine in his system.

"Do you think that made him more aggressive?" Cox said during his closing argument.

He said Naber told investigators he didn't intend to kill Haag. "He got whacked trying to stab me," Cox said, quoting from Naber's tape.

Pasco man's fate rests in jurors' hands at murder trial 10/30/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 9:30pm]
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