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Cross-dressing bank robber shocks closely-knit community by allegedly leaving friend’s slain body in closet for nearly a week

Posted at 6:38 PM, Dec 26, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-26 18:38:59-05

He killed his next-door neighbor, a friend, then hid the body in a closet for nearly a week, according to prosecutors, and now that Aston Barth, 33, is under arrest for second degree murder, there’s outrage from friends and relatives of Barth’s well-known and well-loved alleged victim.

“This is my brother,” said Hakim Slater about victim Jason “J.B.” Campbell, 35.  “I tell you, I loved him and he loved me.”  Slater was one of a steady stream of people who stopped at a makeshift memorial made up of dozens of candles, flowers, handwritten notes, even empty bottles of Hennessy dedicated to Campbell’s memory, outside of his home on Brier Street on Wednesday.

The large outpouring of sorrow was a strong indication of just how popular and deeply cared for the alleged murder victim was.  However, one other thing was mentioned by Campbell’s many friends and family members who’d come to memorialize him:  the tragic and bizarre circumstances under which he’d died.

“That’s horrible,” Franklin Xavier told PIX11 News.  “I don’t know what kind of sick person would do such a thing. That’s like the sickest thing I’ve heard of in my life.”

He was referring to what prosecutors said happened to Xavier’s friend at Barth’s home just twenty or so paces away from Campbell’s home.  They said Campbell and Barth had had an argument in Barth’s home on December 18th.  Barth strangled Campbell, then, investigators say, he tried to use an axe to decapitate Campbell.  When that didn’t work, he wrapped his friend’s body in a blanket, which Barth placed into his bedroom closet.  Barth also told his family, according to a prosecutor, “Do not go into my room.”

It was after Campbell’s many friends kept asking Barth about Campbell’s disappearance that pressure mounted on Barth.  Eventually, the suspicions against him grew so great that Barth’s family opened the closet door to make a grisly discovery.  That was on Christmas Eve, six days after the killing.

“It’s more heartbreaking… because he let his guard down thinking, ‘This person was a friend,'” said Campbell’s former girlfriend Angela Sampson.  “This is a tragedy.”

Aston Barth, by the way, is no stranger to the law, nor is he a stranger to news outlets reporting on his interactions with law enforcement.  In 2007, he gained national notoriety for dressing up in drag and holding up the closest bank to his home.

The blond woman’s wig, light brown dress and white high-heeled sandals Barth wore proved to be an ineffective disguise because police found him a short time after the hold-up.  He had no’t bothered to shave his mustache and beard while in his cross-dressing garb.

Barth had apparently been paroled in 2011 from his bank robbery conviction prior to committing his latest crime, for which the only response at his home came from a man who came to the window to shout out a response to PIX11’s request for comment.  “We don’t want to talk,” the man said.

However, Barth had spoken to investigators about the crime, having confessed, according to prosecutors, after he was informed that he could not, by New York State law, be put to death for the murder.

Talking at the murder victim’s makeshift memorial were many people who knew J.B. Campbell well.  They said he was exemplary, especially when it came to fathering his two preschool-age sons.

“[He was] such a good father,” said Sampson, Campbell’s former girlfriend.  “They’ll grow up without a father.”

Barth’s mother has said in published reports that her son was mentally ill and had not taken his medication for quite some time.  If he is found guilty, he faces 25 years to life in prison.