By Clair McFarland
Via Wyoming News Exchange
RIVERTON — After a heated preliminary hearing consumed most of Wednesday afternoon, four alleged kidnappers were bound over to district court to face felony, conspiratorial, unlawful confinement charges that could land them in prison for no fewer than 20 years – or life.
Geraldine Blackburn, 56, Basil Blackburn, 32, Kelly Martinez, 22, and Janelle Warren, 23, were arranged in an L-shaped pattern throughout the jury box and defense table, with their respective lawyers placed between them to uphold a mandated “no-contact” policy among the four defendants.
The fifth co-defendant Darilyn Dodge waived her preliminary hearing.
The state called Riverton Police Department officer Randy Foos to the witness stand first, asking him to recount his interviews with the alleged victims from the night of April 20.
On that night, Foos interviewed the older of two sisters, who said she had escaped a nearby apartment after having been “jumped, beaten, threatened, tortured, and held against her will” for nine hours, Foos recalled.
“She became very concerned and was crying, saying that her sister was still in there,” he said.
Foos went to the apartment where the confinement was said to have occurred, and the younger sister opened the door, roughly seven feet from where Geraldine Blackburn was lying on the living room couch.
A sweep of the apartment revealed Jakota Wolfname, hiding in a closet. Wolfname was arrested on unrelated warrants. Foos kept searching the residence and found Janelle Warren, Basil Blackburn, Kelly Martinez, Darilyn Dodge and Nicholas Blackburn on a bed in a back bedroom, together.
Nicholas Blackburn was not arrested; the victims believed he arrived after the incident, although they didn’t know his name.
In his role as Fremont County Attorney, Patrick LeBrun questioned Foos about three photographs, which showed the victims’ facial areas shortly after the incident. Foos believed the bruising denoted by the photos to be the result of beating, stomping, and taser burns. A photo of the older victim revealed a facial gouge that she said occurred when Kelly “Lady” Martinez stabbed her in the head with a screwdriver.
In Foos’s report, the younger victim stated that, during the episode, she was made to sit on a couch next to Basil Blackburn while he used a cell phone to call an unknown party – identified by the victim as a male – and told the party “I need you to pick up these two girls and take care of them out on the Rez.”
LeBrun asked Foos what the victim thought the call meant, to which Foos replied “she believed that she and her sister were going to be taken out onto the Rez to be killed.”
Upon cross-examination, Kelly Martinez’s defense lawyer, Terry Martin, called into question Foos’s medical knowledge from which he had inferred the source of the photographed injuries upon the victims.
Geraldine Blackburn’s defense lawyer, Bailey Lazzari, also cross-examined Foos, asking questions which focused upon her client’s demeanor on the couch that night.
Foos did not confirm for Lazzari whether Geraldine Blackburn was asleep when he entered, saying only that she was lying on the couch.
Lazzari would later suggest to the court that her client was “passed out” and had slept through most of the incident.
When Basil Blackburn’s defense lawyer, Elisabeth Trefonas, approached the podium to question Foos, she attempted to fling doubt on the victims’ testimony of confinement.
In her exchange with the witness, Trefonas inquired at length about the police report in which the older victim said Basil Blackburn had stomped on her neck with his foot. Police believed the tread marks on the older victim’s neck were consistent with the tread pattern on Basil Blackburn’s shoe – an Adidas brand shoe – on which blood and hair also were discovered.
The tread marks were just above a tattoo of a man’s name.
“How many pairs of shoes are the Adidas shoes similar to?” asked Trefonas, who also asked whether there could have been several shoes with similar tread in the apartment at the time.
The prosecution and four-faceted defense made their final arguments before the court.
LeBrun argued that there was probable cause for the four to be bound over to District Court as potential felons because “this case is chock-full of this inferential evidence that can be drawn as to this agreement,” to confine two women. “They all knew; they all took some initiative, in a goal which amounted to terrorizing and torturing” the victims.
Trefonas closed her own argument on Basil Blackburn’s behalf in saying that the evidence was murky, the timeline “confusing,” and that the fact that the younger victim answered the door for police suggested that there was no confinement.
Acting on behalf of Kelly “Lady” Martinez, defense attorney Terry Martin said “the case boils down to the word of (the two victims interviewed)… There are so many inconsistencies in the statements by (the victims); the motive doesn’t make sense.”
Judge Roberts predicted that “the state is going to have some trouble” proving guilt with some of the defendants on conspiracy to commit unlawful confinement. However, Roberts said, the evidence presented did rise to the level of probable cause, and despite the arguments of “astute defense attorneys,” the four co-defendants had been implicated sufficiently to be bound over.