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Thread: Ricky Lee Blackwell, Sr. - South Carolina Death Row

  1. #1
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Ricky Lee Blackwell, Sr. - South Carolina Death Row

    Heather Brooke Center

    Death penalty sought for suspected child killer

    Seventh Circuit Solicitor Trey Gowdy will seek the death penalty for a man suspected of shooting a child to death Wednesday afternoon in Chesnee.

    An investigator for the solicitor’s office served a written notice on Ricky Lee Blackwell, of 248 Ridings Road, at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center this afternoon. Blackwell, accused of murder and kidnapping, is recovering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound that occurred after officials said he fatally shot 8-year-old Heather Brooke Center on 244 Ridings Road. Officials said Blackwell grabbed the child, put her in a headlock and shot her once in the head not far from his double-wide mobile home. The man proceeded to shoot her at least three more times as she was falling on the ground, Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger said. “The paradigm we have always used is three fold - the circumstances of the crime, the character of the defendant and the impact the crime has on the community as a whole,” Gowdy said in a news release. “The execution of a child shocks the conscience of this community and warrants seeking of society’s ultimate punishment.” Gowdy decided to seek the death penalty after talking with Sheriff Chuck Wright, Clevenger and other investigators who worked the crime scene. A timeline for the prosecution will be established once Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal assigns a judge to preside over the case.


  2. #2
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    8-year-old girl brutally shot and killed in Chesnee

    CHESNEE -- An 8-year-old girl who wanted to spend Wednesday afternoon swimming was brutally shot to death by the estranged husband of her father's girlfriend, authorities say.

    The Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office plans to charge 50-year-old Ricky Lee Blackwell, of 248 Ridings Road, with murder and kidnapping once he recovers from surgery.

    Officials said Blackwell grabbed the child, put her in a headlock and shot her once in the head not far from his double-wide mobile home. The man proceeded to shoot her at least three more times as she was falling to the ground, and perhaps while she was on the ground, Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger said.

    The tragedy occurred about 3 p.m. on 244 Ridings Road -- a narrow road in a rural area of Spartanburg County not far south of Highway 11 between Chesnee and New Prospect. A few mobile homes are the only dwellings on the road.

    Blackwell and his wife used to live together on Ridings Road, though the two are now separated. Their adult daughter lives in a unit nearby, at 244 Ridings Road -- the scene of the crime.

    Blackwell's estranged wife brought her boyfriend's child, Heather, to 244 Ridings Road Wednesday afternoon to go swimming.

    "When she got here, her estranged husband showed up -- he lives next door -- I don't know if he saw her pull in, if he knew she was coming or what," said Master Deputy Tony Ivey with the Sheriff's Office said. "That's when everything took place."

    Heather Brooke Center, 8, of 981 Lightwood Knot Road in Woodruff, died from a gunshot wound to the head, Clevenger said. He called the shooting "heinous."

    Deputies were dispatched to the scene just before 3 p.m., a criminal domestic violence call.

    They arrived and saw the girl, Heather, lying facedown in a driveway. She had a gunshot wound in one leg, a pool of blood in the center of her back, and blood coming from her right ear, according to an incident report. She did not show any signs of life.

    Witnesses said Blackwell fled into the nearby woods. Investigators arrived and began searching for him.

    Blackwell emerged and shot himself in the side, Sheriff Chuck Wright said. When asked whether that was an attempt at suicide, Wright said he thought so.

    "Once our officers got on the scene, people here, at the home, began to point in the direction of Ricky's home and said, 'He's that way.' That's when deputies began sweeping the area," Ivey said.

    Deputies had their guns drawn and ordered the man to drop his weapon. He wouldn't, Ivey said. They did not fire at Blackwell, Wright said.

    Late Wednesday, Blackwell was just out of surgery. Wright said investigators wanted to make sure he was fully coherent before they interviewed him so there would be "no excuses" later on.

    How long Blackwell and his estranged wife have been separated wasn't immediately clear.

    "It's a bad scene," Wright said. "You have a baby who is deceased who had nothing to do with it. It's pitiful."

    Neighbors, who asked not to be identified, said they rarely heard any commotion from the residences over on Ridings Road.

    "He must have just lost it," one neighbor said. "I really don't know why he done what he done. But in my mind, Ricky has always been a fine man."


  3. #3
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    Case number: M088424

    Follow the case here

  4. #4
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    Man charged in SC girl's killing expected in court

    A man accused of shooting an 8-year-old Chesnee girl to get back at his wife for leaving him is expected in court.

    WSPA-TV reports ( http://bit.ly/QWBEn0) that a hearing is scheduled Monday in Spartanburg in the case against Ricky Lee Blackwell.

    Blackwell was arrested in 2009 and charged with murder in the death of Heather Brooke Center.

    Authorities say Blackwell put the girl in a headlock, then shot her in the head and fired three more shots into her as she fell. The girl was the daughter of Blackwell's estranged wife's boyfriend.

    Authorities said Blackwell also shot himself in the stomach.

    Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty if Blackwell is convicted.

  5. #5
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    Court prepares for murder trial of man accused of killing 8-year-old girl

    A Chesnee man accused of killing an 8-year-old girl appeared in court Wednesday for a pre-trial hearing.

    Rickey Lee Blackwell Sr., 54, has been charged with kidnapping and murder in the killing of Heather Brooke Center. He's accused of putting the girl in a headlock, shooting her in the head, then shooting her three more times on July 8, 2009 on Ridings Road near Chesnee.

    William McGuire, chief attorney of the Capital Trial Division of the S.C. Commission on Indigent Defense, and 7th Circuit Chief Public Defender Clay Allen represent Blackwell.

    McGuire asked Circuit Court Judge Roger Couch to suppress any statements that Blackwell made to law enforcement at the crime scene or hospital. According to testimony, Blackwell made statements about shooting the girl while at the scene, in the hospital trauma bay and to a jailer at the Spartanburg County Detention Center.

    Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office Investigator Loren Williams spoke with Blackwell at the hospital. Blackwell was hospitalized after shooting himself in the abdomen. Williams said Blackwell was asked to try and explain what happened. Williams said Blackwell had hard feelings about the breakup of his marriage and "wanted to hurt the child's father to feel the same pain that he had felt. … And that he did shoot the child in the presence of the (estranged wife). It was all in retaliation for the breakup."

    At the time, Blackwell's estranged wife, Angela, was dating Brooke's father, Bobby Alvin Center Jr.

    Williams testified that he asked Blackwell, "Tell me why it happened. Tell me that you're sorry. Tell me something. And that was when he made the statement that the only thing he was sorry about was that he had not done a better job on himself."

    Seventh Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette is prosecuting Blackwell. He was assisted at the motion hearing by Deputy Solicitor Derrick Bulsa and Assistant Solicitor Russell Ghent.

    There was no ruling Wednesday on a motion to change venue. The defense requested to change venues because of pre-trial publicity and other potential influences on jurors. Couch said if there is a problem in seating a jury, the defense can renew its argument.

    Another motion the defense made was for a hearing to determine if certain crime scene and autopsy photographs should be suppressed because their prejudicial value might outweigh probative value. Couch questioned whether the defense was requesting specific photographs.

    McGuire said although a number of photographs could be "inflammatory," they likely would be admitted due to their probative value. He said certain things could be done to limit that, one suggestion was putting some photographs in black and white that would show the victim's condition "without having the gory blood…" or not introducing close-ups.

    Couch preserved the defense's right to object to photographs at a later time.

    The defense also asked that the jury not be sequestered. McGuire said the trend now is not to sequester juries. He said it was expensive and publicity was not an issue.

    "The old fear that publicity would always be a factor is just really not the case," McGuire said.

    Couch said McGuire had an outstanding motion to change venues and said that's probably one of the reasons the case hasn't moved because of the atmosphere in which the case might be held.

    "In this point in time, I'm leaning toward sequestration," Couch said. He said he wanted a fair trial without outside influences.

    Couch approved the prosecution's motion for a DNA sample that could be used by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division to verify forensic evidence.

    Blackwell's trial was scheduled to begin on Jan. 27, 2014, but has been postponed until the first week in March.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  6. #6
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    Jury selection scheduled in SC man's murder trial

    Jury selection in the death penalty case against a Chesnee man accused of killing an 8-year-old girl is scheduled to begin March 3.

    Ricky Lee Blackwell Sr., 55, has been charged with kidnapping and murdering Heather Brooke Center. He's accused of putting the girl in a headlock, shooting her in the head, then shooting her three more times on July 8, 2009 on Ridings Road near Chesnee. He shot himself in the abdomen after Spartanburg County Sheriff's deputies arrived on the scene.

    Blackwell appeared in court with his attorneys, William McGuire and 7th Circuit Chief Public Defender Clay Allen, for a pre-trial hearing in November.

    McGuire asked Circuit Court Judge Roger Couch to suppress statements that Blackwell made to officers. But Couch ruled that Blackwell made all four statements voluntarily and they can be offered as evidence in the trial.

    Two officers testified at the November hearing that they read Blackwell his Miranda rights and that Blackwell understood his rights. One testified that Blackwell told him the victim's name and said he grabbed the child — the daughter of his then estranged wife's boyfriend. One officer testified that Blackwell admitted during questioning that he shot the girl to get back at her father; another officer testified that Blackwell said he killed the girl.

    Couch has ordered that all people involved with the case not discuss it. That order remains in effect until the trial starts.

    The defense and prosecution agreed to a continuance if the defense provided all findings from its investigation and evaluations of Blackwell to prosecutors by Nov. 21. The defense has asserted that Blackwell is mentally retarded — a test indicated his I.Q. was 63 — and should be spared from the death penalty, according to court documents.

    The court has ordered that an examiner designated by the S.C. Department of Disabilities and Special Needs examine Blackwell to determine whether he has an intellectual disability.

    The order dated Oct. 31 specified that the evaluation be performed within 30 days after the examiner receives the order and that a written report be provided within 10 days after all examinations are done.

    The defense informed the court that two experts would present testimony regarding Blackwell's "diagnosis of being mildly mentally retarded," according to a court document.

    Prosecutors said in a motion filed earlier this month they had been given the findings of only one of the experts and asked a judge to order the defense to turn over all findings.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  7. #7
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    Hearing in death penalty case postponed; Ricky Lee Blackwell Sr. in hospital

    A hearing to help determine whether a Chesnee man accused of murder has the mental capacity to receive the death penalty was postponed Tuesday due to his hospitalization.

    Ricky Lee Blackwell Sr., 55, is charged with kidnapping and murdering 8-year-old Heather Brooke Center. Blackwell is accused of placing Center in a headlock, shooting her in the head, then shooting her three more times on July 8, 2009. Blackwell’s trial is scheduled for early March.

    Circuit Judge Roger Couch said he had been informed on Monday that Blackwell was hospitalized.

    Seventh Circuit Public Defender Clay Allen told Couch that Blackwell was still in a hospital as of Tuesday morning when the hearing was scheduled. The defense chose not to go forward with the hearing absent Blackwell.

    Allen told Couch he attempted to speak with hospital personnel, but said they would not talk to him, citing privacy concerns.

    Couch said he understood that concern, but, “I would hope that Mr. Blackwell would be willing to make the information necessary available to the court for us to schedule the matter appropriately.”

    Allen told Couch he did not anticipate there would be a problem with Blackwell signing a release to make medical information available to the court in order to reschedule the hearing and other court proceedings.

    Blackwell’s discharge date was unknown as of Tuesday morning.

    Seventh Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette expressed concern to Couch that prosecutors had not received a report from an interview of Blackwell conducted in June. Allen called the matter an “oversight” and said defense would make the report available.

    Allen told Couch he did not anticipate any more reports from psychologists or psychiatrists who have evaluated Blackwell.

    Assistant Solicitor Russell Ghent, who’s assisting with Blackwell’s prosecution, said the defense provided documents about an involuntary commitment of Blackwell in March 1990. It was unclear whether Blackwell attempted suicide and was then committed.

    “He shot a .357 Magnum through the roof of the mobile home in which he was living with his wife. It’s our understanding from the records that this occurred after he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a form of cancer,” Ghent said.

    Blackwell spent two weeks in a hospital after the incident and was referred to a psychiatrist, Ghent said.

    “We have no records of that. It has the date of the appointment. It has the time of the appointment and that is the referral,” Ghent said.

    Ghent suggested it would be “curious” if the defense did not have those records and that their content could impact the case.

    Allen said the defense did not have records from the psychiatrist that Ghent referenced. Allen said an investigator told him the records were apparently destroyed by the medical provider.

    The defense did not object to Couch’s order that the psychiatrist turn over any records.

    Couch continued the case. The hearing was not immediately rescheduled.


  8. #8
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    Judge set to decide whether man accused of murder in girl's slaying can face death penalty

    A Chesnee man accused of killing a young girl appeared childlike himself during an evaluation to determine whether he has the intellectual capacity to face the death penalty should he be convicted of kidnapping and murder, a psychologist testified Wednesday.

    Dr. Ginger Calloway, who has a clinical forensic practice in North Carolina, testified for the defense. She described Ricky Lee Blackwell Sr. as "nave looking, like a young child, and rather frightened looking" when she evaluated him.

    Blackwell, 55, is accused of kidnapping and murdering 8-year-old Heather Brooke Center in July 2009. His trial is scheduled to start next month.

    If Blackwell is ruled to have an intellectual disability, he would be ineligible for execution if convicted. The ruling will come after this Atkins hearing, which is based on a 2002 Supreme Court ruling that it is unconstitutional to execute someone with an intellectual disability.

    Dr. Kimberly Harrison testified for the state and said Blackwell did not have significant symptoms of a mental illness or "retardation."

    She said Blackwell was competent to stand trial when she evaluated him.

    Harrison, chief psychologist for the S.C. Department of Mental Health's forensic evaluation service, evaluated Blackwell on April 24. Harrison said a social worker assisted in the evaluation, which included a 1-hour, 20-minute interview.

    "This evaluation was solely focused on his competency to stand trial. I did not do any testing," Harrison testified.

    Harrison said she researched the criminal case and Blackwell's background as part of her examination. She said she also researched the possibility that Blackwell has an intellectual disability.

    "In the case that there was further evidence that might suggest an intellectual disability, I would have either referred the case on to (the S.C. Department of Disabilities and Special Needs) or requested a joint evaluation with DDSN and myself," Harrison said.

    Harrison said Blackwell understood the charges against him, court procedures and was able to assist his attorneys in preparing for trial.

    She said records from the year Blackwell entered school showed he had a low IQ that suggested a possible intellectual disability. But one year later, when Blackwell was 8, his IQ was reported to be 87, "which would be considered in the low average range of intellectual development and not an intellectually disabled range," Harrison said.

    She said it's not uncommon for the first IQ score to be much lower in the first year of school if someone comes from an environment where they may have received little intellectual stimulation. She said Blackwell's IQ score at age 8 "was an indication that he likely did not have an intellectual disability."

    She said Blackwell demonstrated an ability to understand and appropriately respond to questions, consider different scenarios and demonstrate abstract thinking skills.

    "He did not demonstrate any obvious problems with attention or concentration or his memory," Harrison said.

    She diagnosed him with re-occurring major depressive disorder as well as generalized anxiety disorder, but said he did not report symptoms of either disorder and was in full remission at the time of the examination. She said Blackwell was taking anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety medications at the time of the evaluation.

    Under cross-examination, Harrison said it would be possible for someone with "mild mental retardation" to score a little more than 70 on an IQ test due to testing error of measurement. She also said there was "possible evidence" that Blackwell was mentally retarded based on the first IQ score.

    She disagreed that more recent tests placing Blackwell's IQ in a lower range invalidated a test from his childhood with a higher score. She said it was important to test for the effort they put forth and their response style.

    Seventh Circuit Public Defender Clay Allen questioned Harrison about Blackwell's academic record. Allen said Blackwell repeated the ninth grade and ranked last in a class of 113 students when he dropped out of Chesnee High School his junior year.

    Harrison said those factors could indicate an intellectual disability, learning disability or lack of effort.

    She said Blackwell had been employed — he had a commercial driver's license and had worked as a truck driver and forklift operator and had apparently lived independently.

    Harrison said it would be "unusual" for a person with mental retardation to have a commercial driver's license, since it would require a written test, reading skills, ability to understand language and formulate responses.

    Calloway said someone could be mildly mentally retarded and obtain a commercial driver's license and drive a truck, operate a forklift, read and write, work, marry and carry out household chores.

    Calloway defined intellectual disability as "significantly sub-average general functioning" with an IQ of 70 or below, adaptive deficits in two of 10 areas and the onset of the disability before age 18.

    Calloway said the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities recommends using a standardized instrument and extensive interviewing to determine whether one has adaptive deficits.

    Calloway testified that Blackwell scored 63 on an IQ test she gave him and had "significant deficits" in several areas, including communication, home living and self-direction.

    She said in her examination she looked at several sources "that suggested that his intellectual functioning was sub-average before the age of 18."

    Calloway interviewed Blackwell about his background, including his family, medical, relationship and work history. She also reviewed school records and interviewed several people who know Blackwell, including relatives, a minister, former employer and teacher to learn more about Blackwell's functioning.

    Calloway said one of Blackwell's former teachers told her that he was in classes described as "preliminary to special education classes."

    Calloway noted that several people in Blackwell's family had "scores that fall into a range of intellectual disability."

    At the age of 18, before he dropped out of high school, Calloway said Blackwell's reading and math scores were at a fifth- or sixth-grade level.

    Calloway said Blackwell held numerous jobs over the years — inspecting cans for defects, stacking pallets, bagging ice — and was described as a "good worker."

    He became a truck driver in 1982, she said, but lost jobs after accidents. He reportedly failed at operating his own trucking business.

    "He was given the kind of jobs you would expect for somebody with a mild intellectual disability. He could do repetitive tasks. He could be taught," Calloway said.

    He was married to his ex-wife, Angela, for 29 years, according to testimony. Calloway gathered from multiple sources that Angela managed their finances and the household in general.

    Blackwell lived on land owned by his parents, who lived within walking distance. His parents helped the couple purchase their first home.

    Calloway said Blackwell had various diagnoses beginning at age 31, including major depressive disorder. At one point, he was involuntarily committed and discharged with major depressive disorder without psychosis.

    He tried to overdose on prescription drugs after his separation from his ex-wife, Calloway said.

    The Atkins hearing resumes at 9 a.m. today.


  9. #9
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    From left to right: Ricky Blackwell and Brooke Center

    Trial set to start for Ricky Blackwell in 2009 Chesnee homicide case

    SPARTANBURG, SC (FOX Carolina) - Nearly five years after an 8-year-old girl was shot to death in Chesnee, the trial for the man accused of killing her is slated to begin.

    Jury selection will begin Monday morning for Ricky Blackwell's murder trial in the fatal shooting of Brooke Center, who was killed July 8, 2009.

    Spartanburg County deputies said Blackwell shot Center to get revenge on his estranged wife, who was dating Center's dad. They said Blackwell invited Center and his estranged wife, Angela Blackwell, over to his home in Chesnee to swim.

    When the two arrived, deputies said Blackwell grabbed Center and shot her multiple times.

    Angela Blackwell told FOX Carolina that she was actually taking Center to Bobby Center's home to go swimming and had stopped to pick up her grandchildren from Ricky Blackwell's home, but he was not supposed to be there.

    When deputies closed in on Blackwell, they said he shot himself in the stomach, but survived and has since been held in the Spartanburg County jail.

    Blackwell, now 55, has remained in jail since his July 2009 arrest on charges of murder and kidnapping. His trial has been delayed multiple times since then.

    According to the solicitor's office, it will be tried as a death penalty case.

    According to the clerk of court's office, 300 jurors were summoned for the trial, so they do not know how long it will take to select the jury.


  10. #10
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    Juror qualifications continue in death penalty case of Ricky Lee Blackwell Sr.

    Exactly when a jury will be selected to decide Ricky Lee Blackwell Sr.’s fate was unclear Friday afternoon.

    Juror qualifications began Monday and will resume at 9 a.m. Saturday.

    The state is seeking the death penalty against the 55-year-old Chesnee man accused of fatally shooting an 8-year-old girl in July 2009.

    Circuit Court Judge Roger Couch laid out a time frame Monday, scheduling 80 potential jurors to appear and answer court officials’ questions to determine if they’re eligible to serve on the jury.

    Potential jurors were divided into 20 panels. Couch had scheduled people on the final panel to begin appearing at 3 p.m. Thursday. But they had only gotten as far as the ninth panel by 4 p.m. Thursday.

    People are brought in individually and asked a series of questions by Couch and attorneys for the prosecution and defense.

    Questions include whether prospective jurors have participated in any political activity concerning the death penalty, their exposure to media coverage about the case, whether they have a relationship with possible witnesses and whether they could impose the death penalty.

    Couch told one man chosen for the jury pool that he may receive a call Tuesday or so of next week to return to court for jury selection.

    Those chosen to serve on the jury will be sequestered.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

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