Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa teen found guilty of kidnapping, but acquitted of murder

LARGO — Jurors hearing a rare kind of murder case came back with a not guilty verdict for a Tampa teen on Thursday.

The jury did, however, find Juan Carlos Morales, 19, guilty for his role in kidnapping Gregory Longley in September 2008. That verdict could carry a life sentence.

In addition to kidnapping, Morales faced a charge of second-degree murder. Prosecutors say he helped two other teens kidnap Longley, who ultimately grabbed the gun from his kidnappers and shot Morales and Javon Strange, killing Strange.

Under Florida law, Morales could have been found guilty of Strange's murder even though he didn't pull the trigger. Florida is one of a handful of states that allows murder prosecutions with those sets of circumstances. Longley faced no charges because he acted in self-defense.

Jurors were instructed that to find Morales guilty of murder, they first had to find him guilty of kidnapping. Prosecutors said afterward that they were surprised by the split verdict.

"I was expecting guilty on both counts," Assistant State Attorney Evan Brodsky said.

Prosecutors say that Morales, Strange and Abdusbasiyr Blake went to Oldsmar that night looking for Sean Gerstmann. Blake was upset because he believed Gerstmann had stolen some rare coins from him.

Morales testified Wednesday that he went with Blake because he was like a brother, and he didn't want to let him down.

The teens drove around looking for Gerstmann, and ultimately guessed he was staying at the Aday Motel. There, they kidnapped Longley, who was visiting Gerstmann.

Wednesday, Longley told jurors he was terrified when he thought of what the teens might do to him.

He was outside Gerstmann's hotel room talking to his girlfriend when Blake and Strange walked up. At first he thought they wanted cigarettes. Then they pulled out a gun and told him to come with them.

At a parking garage where the teens stopped, Longley said he heard them talk about killing Gerstmann and then him. Later, as Strange took his hand off the gun to send a text message, Longley grabbed it and shot Strange and Morales.

Blake faces charges of kidnapping and second-degree murder. He is scheduled to stand trial next month.

In closing arguments, defense attorney Stephen Nelson emphasized that Morales played only a limited role. He said Blake and Strange kidnapped Longley and that Morales didn't realize what had happened because Longley remained calm.

Morales is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 13.

Sara Gregory can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or

Tampa teen found guilty of kidnapping, but acquitted of murder 07/15/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 15, 2010 11:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  2. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion


    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  3. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  4. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush


    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.
  5. Tampa man turns himself in for Sunday hit and run fatality

    Public Safety

    A Tampa man was arrested early Sunday after he struck and killed a pedestrian, left the scene, and then called 911 to turn himself in.