PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — They are a father and son who have served in the U.S. military and spent years in uniform as Palm Beach County Sheriff’s road patrol deputies.
Today they are wearing blue jail scrubs as inmates at the Palm Beach County Jail.
Dad Carlton Nebergall Jr. is charged with first-degree murder. The son, Jason Nebergall, is convicted of attempted rape.
Both wound up behind bars within a five month period this year, apparently just an odd matter of timing after no prior criminal histories for either man.
“It’s sadly and unfortunately coincidental,” said Michael Salnick, a criminal defense lawyer who represents both men and is working to get them released.
Carlton Nebergall Jr., 61, retired from the force in 2012, a year after his wife of 31 years, Sherry, died from cancer. He is accused in the Feb. 19 shooting death of his son-in-law, outside Nebergall’s home in The Acreage. Salnick said the shooting was an act of self-defense.
Jason Nebergall, 39, has been on unpaid leave, since his arrest in December 2016 for an on-duty incident that year. On July 13, a jury rejected his claim he was falsely accused. He was found guilty of attempted sexual battery while in possession of a weapon, and a misdemeanor battery count for touching the breasts of a 28-year-old woman near Greenacres.
After the younger Nebergall’s arrest, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Teri Barbera told reporters, “Unfortunately sometimes an employee makes a bad decision which leads to misconduct. The Sheriff’s Office will remain vigilant to insure that our efforts are professional and meet the high standards that the public has come to expect.”
Carlton Nebergall is due in court on Thursday, for a hearing on his request to be released to house arrest with a GPS ankle monitor while awaiting his trial.
The younger Nebergall will be sentenced on Aug. 1, if the judge denies a request for a new trial. The charges are punishable by up to 16 years in prison, but his attorney will ask for his release to house arrest – not with his father – while an appeal is pending.
Father and son are not on the same cell block. Not even close. Records show Carlton is at the West Detention Center in Belle Glade; Jason is at the main jail on Gun Club Road near West Palm Beach.
This is how they got there:
Carlton Nebergall, Jr. has lived in Palm Beach County his entire life, raising three sons and a daughter. He has five grandchildren.
Nebergall served in the U.S. Army but was discharged due to back problems. At age 25, he became a Lantana police officer and held that job for four years.
Then it was on to the sheriff’s office for 27 years; he got a “good conduct medal” in 2010 for a quarter-century of “exemplary conduct, efficiency and fidelity,” records show. He was reprimanded a few times over his behavior during traffic stops, according to disciplinary files.
Nebergall was about six years into his retirement when deputies responded to 911 calls concerning shots fired and arrived at his home at 8:31 p.m. Feb. 19.
They found Jacob Lodge, 36, in the middle of the road, dying from a bullet to the head, and Lodge’s wife, Katrina Nebergall, frantic and attempting chest compressions to keep him breathing. She and Lodge were separated, and she lived with her two young children in her father’s house, records show.
After the shooting, Carlton Nebergall was missing. A sheriff’s helicopter and deputies on the ground spotted him trying to hide under a neighbor’s car and under bushes on his land. Later, investigators found a .38 caliber revolver under a palm tree and the gun matched the bullet that killed Lodge, according to an arrest report.
It’s not clear from the records how Nebergall obtained the firearm or how long he had it.
There are conflicting versions of what led up to the shooting.
Detectives say Lodge arrived at the home as planned to exchange clothing for the children. He and Katrina were talking beside his car when Nebergall came outside and began walking toward the couple with a gun and cursing loudly and demanding that Lodge leave.
“Really?” asked Lodge, according to the account later provided by his wife. “You’re going to threaten me with a gun?”
Katrina then asked her husband to leave. He was driving away when Nebergall fired a shot in the air, and Lodge’s car stopped, she told deputies. She briefly went in the home to check on her children and came out to find her dad at the end of the driveway, still with the gun in his hand, and Lodge bleeding from his forehead, the report states.
In a recording of a 911 call, the woman said her father “did this on purpose” and later added she didn’t know his whereabouts. “Oh my god, my kids are alone inside,” Katrina said in the call.
Neighbors told deputies that they came outside after hearing the first shot and watched Nebergall shoot in Lodge’s direction.
“There was indication that the victim had a weapon or was threatening Carlton before the shooting,” a detective wrote in the arrest report.
But Nebergall’s attorney says his client was afraid of Lodge, who was under a June 2017 court order to have no contact with his father-in-law.
Lodge pleaded guilty to two counts of pawning Nebergall’s rings and tools as his own the previous year. He was sentenced to two years of probation.
This is why Nebergall “had a reasonable belief and fear that Mr. Lodge was capable of hurting him or worse,” Salnick wrote in a June 8 motion seeking Nebergall’s release.
Nebergall was “defending himself from a drug addicted individual who had already victimized him on previous occasions,” the attorney explained, noting that Lodge’s autopsy indicated the presence of various painkillers in his system.
But Darren Shull, a Jupiter-based attorney who represented Lodge, said he wasn’t violent.
“My former client had no history of violence, so making an allegation that he was a danger to anyone is completely false,” said Shull, who defended Lodge during his probation and a now-closed 2017 pawnshop case.
He noted that Lodge recently had been in a car crash and it was likely he was prescribed pain medication during his treatment.
Nebergall’s lawyer says he will ask Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley to use his discretion and send Nebergall home. Nebergall says “the way he lived his life prior to this incident should weigh substantially in the court’s consideration.”
Jason Nebergall joined the U.S. Army at age 20 and served two tours of duty in Iraq, according to his personnel file. He was honorably discharged in 2007 and joined the sheriff’s office that same year. He also joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
Nebergall is married and is a father of three, including 8-year-old twin sons.
Before his arrest, his law enforcement career was marked by a number of disciplinary reports and two dozen or so internal reviews, records show.
Nebergall faced allegations of pulling a gun on a colleague and using so much profanity during a 2013 training class that he was kicked out of the course.
In 2014, after Nebergall spoke to a sergeant using a curse word, a supervisor wrote that he was at risk of being fired.
Nebergall remained on active duty until 2016, when a woman said he tried to rape her outside her residence. Nebergall told investigators he never touched the accuser, who had called the sheriff’s office for help over a landlord dispute.
But his DNA was found on the on the woman’s left breast and he was arrested and placed on unpaid leave.
During his recent trial, Nebergall said the woman exposed her breasts, and asked if he wanted to pat her down, before he pushed her away, touching her breasts in the process.
The woman testified that the deputy made vulgar remarks, forcibly kissed her lips and a breast, asked for oral sex, and tried a sexual act before stopping because he said he didn’t have a condom.
She also said she didn’t try to resist because he kept touching a gun in his waistband during the attack at a trailer park.
Salnick, Nebergall’s lawyer, says he was denied a fair trial, because the woman, while on the witness stand, made an improper comment concerning DNA on her body. The judge denied it was grounds for a mistrial, and now the defense wants a trial do-over.
Salnick says the woman’s remark was so damaging, it wouldn’t have helped to advise the jury to ignore it because that would be like telling the panel not to smell a skunk. He argues, “The ‘smell’ from this testimony permeated the rest of the trial.”