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Archive for Saturday, February 2, 2008

Suspect agrees to bench trial to avoid death

February 2, 2008

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— Jackson County prosecutors again are making a deal with a suspected serial killer.

This time, the suspect is Terry Blair, who is being allowed to avoid the death penalty in exchange for him agreeing to be tried by a judge instead of a jury.

Blair, 46, is charged with the 2004 slayings of six women, whose bodies were dumped in Kansas City neighborhoods frequented by drug addicts and prostitutes. His trial is scheduled to start March 10.

Jackson County Circuit Judge John O'Malley approved the agreement between Blair and prosecutors. The agreement is similar to one allowed last year for Lorenzo Gilyard, who went on to be sentenced to life without parole for strangling six women in 1986 and 1987.

Van Buckley, a spokesman for the Jackson County prosecutor's office, told The Associated Press that he could not comment on the agreement with Blair or the earlier one with Gilyard.

Blair's attorneys had asked the judge to dismiss the murder charges or forbid the death penalty in the case, saying investigators' handling of the evidence had kept the defense from being able to do its job.

For example, they said videotape footage showing someone dumping one of the bodies sat for three years at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., before they were able to look at it.

O'Malley denied the attorneys' requests at a hearing in September but scolded investigators.

The six slayings that Blair is accused of committing were connected by 911 calls to police that helped them locate the bodies in 2004.

Blair is charged with the deaths of Sheliah McKinzie, 38; Patricia Wilson Butler, 45; Darci I. Williams, 25; Anna Ewing, 42; Carmen Hunt, 40; and Claudette Juniel, 31. The women were all strangled.

Charges against Blair in two other slayings - those of victims Nellia Harris, 33, and Sandra Reed, 47 - were dismissed in October. Harris, unlike the others, was killed in 2003.

At the time of his arrest, Blair was on parole after serving 21 years for the 1982 murder of Angela Monroe, his pregnant ex-girlfriend.

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