Modesto murder defendants' mom arrested in pressuring of witness

rahumada@modbee.comMay 6, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    Rosalio Ahumada
    Title: Courts reporter
    Coverage areas: Criminal cases, breaking news
    Bio: Rosalio Ahumada has been a reporter at The Bee for more than seven years, previously covering crime and public safety issues. He also has worked at the Merced Sun-Star, covering education.
    Recent stories written by Rosalio
    On Twitter: @ModBeeCourts
    E-mail: rahumada@modbee.com

— The mother of two men accused of murder has been arrested on suspicion of being an accessory and dissuading a witness in connection with the shooting of two teenagers outside a north Modesto apartment complex last year.

Authorities say Nanci Sue Blackwell tried to prevent a witness from giving investigators information regarding a crime, according to a criminal complaint filed April 23 in Stanislaus County Superior Court. She also is accused of harboring, concealing or aiding a felony suspect to avoid capture, as well as possession of methamphetamine.

Her sons, Robbie Blackwell, 21, of Modesto and Nicholas Spangler, 27, of Ceres, are accused of murder in connection with the deaths of Rolando Luna and Andrew Ensey.

Testimony in a preliminary hearing for Blackwell and Spangler will not resume until July 23. At the end of the hearing, Judge Ricardo Córdova will determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.

In late March, Melanie Martin said in court that she withheld information on the witness stand because she was threatened by the defendants' mother. Martin testified that Nancy Blackwell told her not to tell authorities everything or "she'd f--- me up."

The shooting occurred about 9:15 p.m. Feb. 10, 2012, in the 2400 block of Vera Cruz Drive near Floyd Avenue, several blocks from the Blackwells' home. Witnesses have testified that the gunfire came from a white car, possibly a Lexus.

Luna, 15, and Ensey, 19, were among a group of males involved in a confrontation with Robbie Blackwell outside a cigarette store on the night of the shooting. He left the store after being punched.

Luna and Ensey also left, walking with the others to the nearby apartment complex, where later they were hit by gunfire.

Martin was with Robbie Blackwell that night and witnessed the confrontation at the store. She testified that Nanci Blackwell told her not to tell investigators that she returned with the defendant to his parents' home after the confrontation.

She also didn't say she left the home after the shooting occurred without Robbie Blackwell. Martin testified that she later returned to the home and picked up Robbie Blackwell, his father and Spangler's girlfriend. Spangler was not there, and neither was his girlfriend's white Lexus.

What parents said

Nanci Blackwell and her husband told investigators the defendants left their home before the shooting occurred and didn't return that night. The defendants were arrested several days after the shooting.

Nanci Blackwell is scheduled to return to court Wednesday for a pretrial hearing. She remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail with her bail set at $500,000. Her sons remain in custody at the jail as they await prosecution.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394.

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