John Hartman




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By Casey Grove

News-miner photo

"I'd like you to meet John Hartman, a 15-year-old boy,” said state prosecutor Jeff O’Bryant to the jury. “He was a son, a brother. He liked to play football.”

Pictures of John Gilbert Hartman, or “J.G.” as his friends called him, show a boy smiling for the camera or hugging a girlfriend. He had fair brown hair, medium length, and a likeable face.

Hartman died at 6:37 p.m. Oct. 12, 1997, more than 24 hours after being found beaten near the corner of 9th Avenue and Barnette Street in downtown Fairbanks. Paramedics who appeared on the scene, according to the ambulance log, noted that the posturing of his body suggested a serious head trauma. His pants were down around his knees.

His controversial death would send John's family and friends, some of whom were asked to give testimony, to three separate trials over the course of two years. Hartman's mother and best friend both spoke to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner about the pain of reliving the death over and over again, and some of those close to him attended support groups after his death.

“That was a good kid,” said Mueller, who used to play the drums. “He never did anything to anybody, and now he’s dead.”
John’s obituary, with his young face beaming, said that he “was well-liked and loved by all who knew him.”

“He was my best friend,” said Trent Mueller, one of the last people to see Hartman alive, in a February 2004 interview. Mueller recalled that on the night of the beating, he and John Durham, another longtime friend, recognized their friend’s badly beaten face on a broadcast by a local television station that was attempting to identify Hartman. They quickly called police and were soon at the hospital. “His head was twice the size,” said Mueller.

Trent, J.G. and Durham had planned to start a garage band. They were going to call themselves “The Sentinels.” Hartman had been saving up money to buy a bass guitar.

Hartman (right) with Chris Hopkins. News-miner photo

Mueller was able to help police piece together the day leading up to Hartman’s death.

“That was a good kid,” said Mueller, who used to play the drums. “He never did anything to anybody, and now he’s dead.”




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