DNA evidence, cell phone records help track down Blackburn murder suspects

25 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

2 men charged with murder in killing of pastor’s wife.

INDIANAPOLIS • Authorities charged two young men with murder on Monday in the fatal shooting of a pastor’s pregnant wife during a home invasion that happened after the minister left the couple’s Indianapolis home. Mrs Blackburn, who was 12 weeks pregnant, lay nude and face down in blood on the living room floor – the victim of what police now say was a three-man crime spree that began hours earlier, kilometres away from her home. “She loved the people who were unlovable, gave hope to people who didn’t have hope, didn’t think they had a future,” Mr Blackburn told ABC News’ Good Morning America last week.Two men face murder charges in the death of Amanda Blackburn, a pregnant pastor’s wife in Indianapolis, investigators announced at a press conference Monday.

The Blackburns moved to Indianapolis in January of 2012 “with a dream and a calling to start a life-giving church that would connect with people who normally wouldn’t connect with church,” the couple wrote on Resonate Church’s website. Both Larry Jo Taylor, Jr., 18, the alleged triggerman, and Jalen Watson, 21, have been charged, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said at the press conference. Amanda Blackburn was shot once in the head during the November 10 home invasion, where the pregnant 28-year-old mother lived with her pastor husband, Davey, and the couple’s toddler son, Weston.

Her husband, Pastor Davey Blackburn, told police he had left the home’s front door unlocked when he departed about 6 a.m. that morning to go to the gym and work out and returned home about 8:20 a.m. to find his wounded wife. Marshals, according to an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department news release. “All victims of criminal homicides deserve closure, and as a community we must send a collective message that violence is not an option,” Police Chief Rick Hite said in the statement. “Our detectives have worked tirelessly going days without sleep to solve murders in our city.” Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Lt. Richard Riddle said last week that a resident recovered a gun in a front yard of a home just blocks away from where Amanda and Davey Blackburn live. “Our detectives are looking at the caliber of the handgun recovered, to see if it does in fact match the caliber of the weapon used in the Amanda Blackburn case,” said Lt. After allegedly committing two burglaries nearby, Curry alleged that three men – Taylor, Watson, and Diano Gordan, 24 – entered the Blackburn home through an unlocked door.

Curry told reporters there was no evidence to warrant sexual assault charges against the three men, but noted his office’s investigation into the homicide continues. Investigators told him that they have a strong case, Blackburn said, adding that he was thankful for their “compassion and professionalism.” “If there is one thing I’ve learned from Amanda in the 10 years we were together, it’s this: Choosing to let my emotions drive my decisions is recipe for a hopeless and fruitless life,” he said.

After discovering a security camera in the residence, Mr Taylor wanted to kill the sleeping occupant, but Mr Watson and Mr Gordon talked him down, the account says. Blackburn’s partly nude body was discovered by her husband, Davey, when he returned home from working out at a gym, but it was not clear if she had been sexually assaulted, according to documents filed by the prosecutor’s office. The affidavit says the two men entered the house through the unlocked front door that morning after they had robbed two other homes, including one in the same neighborhood. Authorities say Mr Taylor hit Mrs Blackburn with his gun and stayed at the house while the other two drove off to retrieve money from an ATM using her card. “Taylor then told them that he leaned over her body and shot her in the back of the head. Police had sought the public’s help by circulating images of a man caught on home surveillance cameras. “He (God) is what made Amanda special; He is why we’re celebrating her life; He is why we loved her so much, because He just radiated out of her,” South Carolina pastor Perry Noble said at a memorial service earlier this month.

Sometime before 5:30 a.m., police say, Watson, Taylor and Gordon embarked on a small crime spree in search of money that would end at the Blackburn residence. She said, ‘We don’t know what the future holds but we know who holds the future and that’s Jesus.’ “We’re drawing our strength from that and we know that Jesus holds the future and we can’t see it clearly but she sees it clearly now because she’s in heaven with Jesus and we’ll see her soon.” Her son’s preschool teacher had just called to say that Ms Almarode’s four-year-old son, Bentley, had fallen asleep in a classroom playhouse and teachers were having trouble rousing him. According to the affidavit, the trio then moved on to another house where they stole TV’s and a laptop, loading them into the previously stolen car. Bentley complained of frequent headaches that had worsened from bothersome to debilitating. “He went from a playful little boy to a zombie who couldn’t move off the floor,” she recalled. But her insistence that something serious was wrong with Bentley had been dismissed by doctors who attributed his headaches, lethargy and episodic vomiting to a virus.

The prosecutor said that his office would review whether it might seek the death penalty against Taylor and would meet with Blackburn’s relatives before making a decision in about a month. “We meet internally in our office to determine strengths and weaknesses of the case. While examining Bentley for a possible vision problem, the eye doctor was so alarmed that he called the University of Virginia Medical Centre to schedule an emergency brain scan and told Bentley’s father to take his son to Charlottesville, 60 kilometres away, immediately. The optometrist had detected a condition called papilledema, a swelling of the optic nerve caused by an accumulation of fluid that presses on the brain. Watson was released from prison Aug. 6 after completing his second sentence for burglary within the past three years, according to online inmate records from the Indiana Department of Correction. Taylor also faces misdemeanor public nudity and public indecency charges stemming from an unrelated June incident where he allegedly exposed himself to a woman in a parking lot, court records show.

Investigators believe the suspect, whom neighbors also reported seeing walking in the area, may have seen Davey Blackburn leave that morning shortly after the suspect allegedly burglarized a nearby house. During a timeout in the operating room — a brief period during which the surgical team huddles to confirm important details before beginning an operation — Liu recalls feeling “scared [to death]”. “I remember very clearly saying, ‘This is not only a four-year-old, [but] we’re doing things that have never been done, so let’s try not to screw it up,” the neurosurgeon said. “It was a fairly tense room.” At first Almarode thought Bentley’s headaches might be an excuse to get out of doing something he didn’t want to do, such as putting his toys away, or a sign of routine illness. “We don’t overreact,” said Almarode, who with her husband also has a daughter, now aged eight, and a three-year-old son. “If our kids get a boo-boo, we tell them to suck it up.” But over the next week, he didn’t.

Almarode, who works as a scheduler in a radiology office, said she pushed for a CT scan of Bentley’s head, worried that he might have suffered an injury from a fall. Liu said that instead of finding a large cancer, as they had expected given his symptoms, the scan showed a Chiari malformation in which tissue from the cerebellum protrudes into the spinal canal. A normal reading for a four-year-old is about 10 mmHG, Liu said; Bentley’s pressure at times rose into the 50s. “Anything over 20 makes neurosurgeons really nervous,” he said.

If no underlying cause is found, as in Bentley’s case, the disorder is called idiopathic intracranial hypertension; it affects about 1 person in 100,000. In many patients, Bentley among them, the problem results from narrowed or obstructed veins in the transverse sinuses, areas beneath the brain critical to the drainage of blood. The third and newest option, devised about a decade ago, involves using a metal stent to open the blocked veins, relieving the pressure and restoring blood flow. “Stenting made the most sense to me — if it could be done safely,” said Liu, who specialises in treating blood vessel disorders.

Liu had a long conversation with the Almarodes during which he presented the options and said he thought that stenting posed the best chance for a good outcome. Nor was he aware, he said, of other doctors who had done so. “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t crazy,” he added, so he contacted nearly a dozen neurosurgeons in Charlottesville and around the country.

Opinions were decidedly mixed. “Half of them said, ‘You’re crazy,’ and the other half said, ‘It makes sense.’ ” Kim Almarode said Liu sidestepped her question to him: What would you do if it was your child? She said she and her husband were supportive because they trusted the neurosurgeon who had used such an approach successfully in other cases. “It wasn’t new to him,” she said. Almarode said the experience convinced her of the importance of trusting her instincts when it comes to her children’s health. “One of the worst parts of this,” she said, “was hearing over and over again that I was overreacting.”

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