News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Judge: Youngest defendant in double homicide fit to stand trial
Aug 9, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
Proceedings against the last defendant in the 2011 Hudson homicides will continue after a judge ruled Wednesday that the defendant is competent to stand trial.
If the court found him unfit, Jude Blackburn would have received education and therapy to rehabilitate him, a process that could take months or years.
"While we did avoid a considerable delay, it by no means shortened the proceedings," Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett said. "We still have a long road ahead of us."
The next step in the case of Blackburn, who was 15 at the time of the murders, is a hearing Aug. 28 to decide if he will be tried as an adult or juvenile. The hearing will be closed to the public.
Prosecutors charged Blackburn in the Nov. 15, 2011, slayings of Eric Likes, 42, and Elva Charlotte Quiver, 20, both of Hudson, and the burning of their trailer home two days later.
Prosecutors allege Blackburn hit Likes in the head twice with a dresser drawer as the Hudson man, already stabbed multiple times, lay in the hallway of his Hudson home.
The counsel for the defendant and deputy prosecutor Patrick LeBrun presented evidence and arguments at the nine-hour hearing Aug. 7 in Lander, which was the result of a motion from the defense. Expert witnesses took the stand for each side of the case to explain Blackburn's psychiatric evaluation.
The defense's expert concluded Blackburn was incompetent to stand trial, while the prosecutor's witness thought him competent.
Bennett said experts can reach differing conclusions based on what tests they use and how they compare those evaluations. The prosecutor was satisfied the court heard all pertinent information.
"Both sides had a tremendous amount of knowledge," Bennett said. "(But) the information the state presented was more convincing."
In the end, Wyoming 9th District Court Judge Norman E. Young agreed with prosecutors that Blackburn is competent to stand trial.
Blackburn has been charged as an adult and faces one 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.
Blackburn's alleged accomplices already have settled their cases. Laziur Stephen Hanway Jr., of Ethete, was sentenced in March to two concurrent life in prison sentences after pleading guilty to two second-degree murder charges.
In May, Joseph Jude Jenkins, of Arapahoe, received 70 years for his role in the murders, and his wife, Samantha June Hanway, of Arapahoe, will spend 25 to 50 years in prison for her part.
Ryan Blake Hanway, of Riverton, agreed to a plea deal and in May was sentenced to eight to 16 years in prison.
The Aug. 28 hearing, which will be closed to the public, will decide whether Blackburn can be tried as an adult. If the case is sent to juvenile court, no more information about it will be released.