A man was surprised to learn in court Thursday that his son once told police his father was involved in the deaths of two teenagers struck by gunfire from a slow-moving car last year in Modesto.
Ricky Blackwell Sr., however, has not been charged with the crime or ever identified as a suspect in the murder case. He was on the witness stand to testify at a preliminary hearing for his son Robbie Blackwell and co-defendant Nicholas Spangler.
The men are charged with murder in the deaths of Rolando Luna and Andrew Ensey. They were killed about 9:15 p.m. Feb. 10, 2012, in the 2400 block of Vera Cruz Drive near Floyd Avenue.
Witnesses have testified that they saw gunfire come from a white car, possibly a Lexus.
Deputy District Attorney Jon Baker spoke about Robbie Blackwell's allegation while questioning his father. He asked if he would be surprised to know that his son told investigators that the elder Blackwell was inside the white Lexus when the shooting occurred and that Spangler fired the gun from the car.
"At the time, he must've been lying or under duress," Ricky Blackwell testified about his son's allegation.
He said he was not in the white car believed to have been used in the shooting.
Before the shooting occurred, Ricky Blackwell said he witnessed his son in a confrontation the same night with about 15 males outside a cigarette store at the Coffee Plaza shopping center. The store is about a block west of the shooting scene.
The group appeared to be gang members, he said, because they wore red clothing and hung out in front of the store a lot, looking at people in an intimidating manner. The area is known to police to be frequented by Norteño gang members, who associate themselves with the color red.
Saw son get punched
Ricky Blackwell said his son also hung out in front of the store a lot, which he didn't like. That made him suspect that his son was using and selling drugs, but he didn't know for sure.
He testified that someone in the crowd said to his son, "Better get the f--- out of here, holmes."
The group of males walked toward his son in a threatening manner, he said, so he told his son to get in the pickup to leave. As Robbie Blackwell was walking to the truck, someone punched him.
Ricky Blackwell testified that his son later left for a party and he stayed at his other son's home to baby-sit their newborn infant. He said the parents were tired from a previous sleepless night and needed him to watch the baby.
He said in court that he didn't see Robbie Blackwell again until the following morning, when he picked him up from a party.
Richard House, now a retired Modesto police officer, questioned a woman who went with three others to Robbie Blackwell's parents' home sometime after 10 p.m. the night of the shooting. The woman, Falcon Pike, was dating Blackwell's roommate at the time.
House testified Thursday that Pike saw Robbie Blackwell and his parents at their home that night. She also told House that Blackwell's father told them to leave because "they were attracting too much attention."
Testimony in the preliminary hearing is expected to continue today.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.