A man accused of stomping and punching a teenage exchange student to death told two very different tales on tapes played for a jury Wednesday.
To detectives, Robert Barthmaier earnestly defended himself. His friend, Joe, hit the guy after the traffic altercation, he said, and he tried to stop it.
"I'm freaked out by this because I never touched that man with my own hands," Barthmaier said on tape.
But to his friend, Brien Bolduc, who Barthmaier didn't know was equipped with a recording device, Barthmaier told a different story entirely. After they chased down the kid who cut them off in traffic, he said, he and Joseph Wagner went to work on him.
"We got out of the car . . . bam bam, we went to sticking him," he said. "I kicked him a couple of times . . . Joe kicked him . . . we walked off."
Prosecutors say 10 to 20 brutal blows rained down on 17-year-old Mehmet Bahar and ended his life early Sept. 18. His beaten body, was found near the Sunset Park home where the Turkish exchange student had been staying.
Barthmaier, 24, and his friend, Wagner, 25, each are charged with first-degree murder and could face the death penalty.
But Barthmaier's attorney told the jury there is no evidence that Bahar's tragic death was a premeditated, first-degree murder.
Wagner's trial is set for June.
Bolduc, a key state witness and a bowling buddy who had been drinking with Barthmaier and Wagner that night, took the stand Wednesday. Barthmaier drove Bolduc's car when they left the bar in the early morning hours, he said.
A late-model car cut them off on West Shore Boulevard, and Bolduc became frantic at the way Barthmaier tailgated the car after that. Wagner and Barthmaier talked of how the driver "needed to be banged up," he said.
When that car pulled into a Sunset Park driveway, Wagner and Barthmaier jumped out and Bolduc sped away, he said.
That evening, Bolduc saw the story of the teenager's murder on TV. He told his story to police and agreed to have his telephone and body wired for sound.
In one conversation, Barthmaier tried to soothe Bolduc, saying "The dude is all right, I drove by his house." But later, jurors heard another version.
As a lengthy and hard-to-hear tape was played, Bolduc wept openly on the stand.
Barthmaier described his actions: "Boom boom, that was all . . . I was done."
Barthmaier tried to come up with alibis and said he burned the clothes he had worn. He denied he meant to kill Bahar, who was "snoring" when they left.
"If you're gonna go to the cops, I'm gonna catch life, man," he said. The case is expected to go to the jury by Friday.