A Florida murder suspect is claiming an unusual defense, telling authorities his “best friend” asked to be strangled to death in a motel room Wednesday night.
According to the Daily News, 26-year-old Rex Drew Stewart was arrested after police found the body of Gerald Richard Breen Jr., 36, at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn in Panama City.
The suspect reportedly told police Breen went with him to purchase items used in the homicide and asked to be strangled with a handsaw.
Police said the two men allegedly “walked to the Walmart … to purchase razor blades and a commando saw,” the latter of which Stewart said was used to strangle his friend.
After making the purchases, the two men reportedly walked back to the motel room where Breen was later killed.
According to reports, Stewart claims an argument broke out and he reconsidered Breen’s brutal request.
The suspect allegedly “grabbed the commando saw, wrapped it around the victim’s neck and strangled him until he was not moving, resulting in his death.”
Police believe Stewart stayed in the room with Breen’s body for more than an hour and was caught on surveillance camera leaving the motel at around 9:30 p.m. He allegedly took his victim’s belongings, including a cellphone and cash, after killing him.
Motel employees found Breen’s body the following afternoon after staff had not heard from either occupant.
Officers reported the television in the room had been turned up and injuries to the victim’s neck were consistent with Stewart’s account of the death by strangulation. Further investigation showed Breen’s estimated time of death fit Stewart’s timeline.
Police arrested the suspect at his parent’s home in Callaway, where they reportedly found items belonging to Breen. Stewart led authorities to additional items taken from the victim, according to reports.
Reports did not indicate, however, why the victim would request to be violently killed.
WMBB spoke to Stewart, who shed some light on that issue.
“He kept saying someone was going to kill him,” Stewart said. “He was like, ‘Well, I’d rather it be you than to be somebody else.”
Breen’s concern was in response to a previous drug deal, he said, adding that drugs were not involved in his death. In the interview, Stewart said he only meant to “choke him out enough for him to fall asleep” and did not know he killed Breen — whom he called his “best friend” — until he saw it on the news.
Stewart gave the interview from Bay County Jail, where he is being held without bond.
The Daily News reports that assisting in the death of another person is punishable as a homicide in Florida. Combined with the alleged robbery, charges could be as severe as first-degree murder with a life sentence.
[Featured image: Bay County Jail]