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Youngest Hudson defendant may have 'finished' the older victim
Mar 22, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer
Prosecutors say 15-year-old Jude Blackburn smashed Eric Likes in the head twice with a dresser drawer on Nov. 15 as the Hudson man, already stabbed multiple times, lay in the hallway of his Hudson home making gurgling sounds.
Autopsy reports showed that Likes, 42, suffered several lacerations to the head, a broken jaw and skull fractures.
For nearly three hours Wednesday in Riverton Circuit Court, Fremont County Attorney Brian Varn argued before Judge Wesley Roberts that sufficient evidence exists to bind over charges against the Riverton teen in connection to the November double murder, robbery and arson.
Blackburn is charged as an adult and faces a count of first-degree arson and two counts each of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery.
He is one of five people charged in the killings.
During Wednesday's preliminary hearing, Blackburn's public defender, Robert Stepans of Teton County, questioned elements of the state's case against the boy, focusing mainly on the conspiracy charges.
After nearly an hour-long recess, Roberts ruled there was enough evidence to bind over all charges against Blackburn to Lander's Ninth District Court.
Blackburn's four co-defendants were scheduled to appear in court with him but instead will appear April 18 after receiving continuances.
Blackburn's alleged accomplices are Ryan Blake Hanway (Myers), 22, of Riverton, Laziur Stephen Hanway Jr., 19, and his sister Samantha June Hanway, 20, both of Ethete, and Joseph Jude Jenkins, 20, of Arapahoe.
The suspects face several charges including first-degree murder, conspiracy, robbery and arson in connection with the Nov. 15 murders of Likes and Elva Charlotte Quiver, 20, and the fire two days later.
Division of Criminal Investigation agent Brady Lee Patrick was the only person to take the stand Wednesday.
His testimony consisted of investigation details coupled with information provided by defendants in the case.
Patrick said he has been involved with the case since the trailer house fire Nov. 17 in Hudson.
Patrick said he was first told the fire was accidental but later learned two bodies were found inside the charred trailer.
"The preliminary (autopsy) results indicated both of the deceased were dead prior to the fire," Patrick said.
Patrick recalled several investigation details that have previously been reported, including the finding of a blood-spotted cigarette lighter in an alley near the trailer.
That lighter eventually linked the crimes to Laziur Hanway, whose blood was allegedly found on it.
Patrick said police discovered evidence in an underground bunker and inside Laziur Hanway's residence on 17 Mile Road. The evidence included property they believed belonged to Likes, bloody clothing, a steel pipe and two knives covered in blood.
"The one knife was completely covered with blood," Patrick said.
He said Laziur Hanway admitted the blood on the clothing belonged to him, Likes and Quiver.
Patrick said that during a second interview, Laziur Hanway indicated his sister's and Jenkins' involvement.
Patrick said Laziur Hanway conceded the three intended to rob and assault the victims and took a pry bar, steel pipe and folding knife with them to commit the crimes.
At the scene
Patrick said Likes welcomed Jenkins and Laziur Hanway into his home the evening of Nov. 15 after the two told him they were stranded.
Likes was a former employer of Laziur Hanway.
Laziur Hanway, according to Patrick, said the assault plan changed when Likes threatened the two with a gun at some point that evening.
It was unclear during the testimony when the shooting threat occurred.
The gun was never recovered, Patrick said.
Patrick said the victims were in their bedroom when Jenkins and Laziur Hanway attacked them. He said Laziur Hanway used the folding knife he brought with him, and Jenkins grabbed a knife from the kitchen.
When Laziur Hanway and Jenkins believed Likes and Quiver were dead, Patrick said they started searching the house for items to steal.
Investigators learned additional details about the crimes in interviews with Samantha Hanway and her husband, Jenkins.
Patrick said Samantha Hanway indicated she and Jenkins stole a pickup truck in Riverton on Nov. 15 and picked up Laziur Hanway and then Blackburn.
While en route to Hudson, Patrick said the others informed Blackburn about plans to rob and assault the couple.
At the scene, Patrick said Samantha Hanway and Blackburn stayed in the truck parked in the alley while the other two went inside the trailer.
He testified that Samantha Hanway and Blackburn entered the house about an hour later.
Samantha Hanway told police, according to Patrick, that Blackburn "smashed" Likes in the head at least twice with a dresser drawer and "finished" off Likes.
Patrick said Jenkins reported he witnessed a motionless Likes making "gurgling sounds" before Blackburn hit him with the drawer.
Samantha Hanway and Jenkins attested they witnessed Blackburn taking marijuana and a smoking pipe from the home.
Patrick said Samantha Hanway also said the four tried to set fire to a couch in the living room.
"He (Blackburn) attempted to light some toilet paper on fire and also the couch," Patrick told the court, adding that Blackburn admitted the attempted fire on Nov. 15 was started as a cover up.
Patrick testified that Blackburn told him in an interview that Samantha Hanway, Laziur Hanway and Jenkins were drinking when they picked him up on Nov. 15. They gave Blackburn alcohol, Patrick said, and headed to Hudson.
Patrick said Blackburn stated he learned about the plan to "jack or rob the residence" while on the drive and described observing the two pipe bars and knife inside the vehicle.
Patrick stated Blackburn told him when the group arrived at the trailer he and Samantha Hanway remained in the truck while the other two went inside.
He said Blackburn told him the plan changed to murder after Laziur Hanway and Jenkins at one point returned to the truck and said Likes threatened them.
It was unclear during the testimony how many times Laziur Hanway and Jenkins returned to the truck.
Patrick said Blackburn admitted to the robbery and throwing the dresser drawer at Likes while rifling through it. Blackburn said the first strike was accidental, but the second was because Laziur Hanway instructed him to do so.
Stepans argued there was never a fire on Nov. 15 when Blackburn was present, but rather an attempt.
The Nov. 17 fire that destroyed the trailer was at the hands of Jenkins and Laziur Hanway, he said.
Stepans noted there was no indication Blackburn knew about the plan when a few days prior to the murders, Ryan Hanway allegedly helped plan the crimes and scope out the trailer house.
Stepans also argued the plan could have changed throughout the course of events on Nov. 15 without his client's knowledge.
Varn said police drove by once that evening while Samantha Hanway and Blackburn were in the truck.
"He was scared. He ducked down, and so did Samantha," Patrick said about Blackburn.
Judge Roberts asked Patrick if there was evidence that showed Blackburn was part of the discussion to kill Likes.
Patrick said yes, because Blackburn knew Laziur Hanway returned to the trailer with a knife.
Roberts asked if there was evidence that Blackburn was part of the discussion to kill Quiver.
"Not specifically Miss Quiver, no," Patrick replied.
Patrick told the court Jenkins and Laziur Hanway cheered one another on as they walked back to the trailer with the knife.
"They were encouraging each other by slapping their hands on their backs," Patrick said.
Although Blackburn was not part of the initial attack, Varn argued that he participated in the subsequent crimes.
He said Blackburn was present when the plan changed and was part of the agreement to take weapons.
"He helped consummate the death," Varn said.
He argued Blackburn served as a lookout and knew Laziur Hanway and Jenkins were going back to the trailer to commit murder.
Stepans questioned if Blackburn conspired to commit the crimes. Although Blackburn was aware of the plan, Stepans said, "there has to be more than that" for him to be charged.
He noted several versions about what occurred during Laziur Hanway's and Jenkins's trips between the trailer and the truck, arguing that the plan could have changed while the two were alone inside the trailer.