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November 22, 2013

Modesto mom convicted for dissuading witness in her sons’ murder case

The mother of two men accused of murder has pleaded no contest to being an accessory connection with the shooting of two teenagers in Modesto.

The mother of two men accused of murder has pleaded no contest to being an accessory and dissuading a witness in connection with the shooting of two teenagers outside a north Modesto apartment complex last year.

Nanci Sue Blackwell was sentenced to a year in jail, but was released with credit for time spent in custody, said Deputy District Attorney John Baker. She was booked at the Stanislaus County Jail on April21 and released Oct.31 after her no contest plea.

As part of her plea deal, prosecutors dropped a felony charge of possessing methamphetamine. Blackwell was ordered to serve three years of the probation and ordered to stay away from Melanie Martin, the witness who testified that Blackwell threatened her.

Baker said the charge of dissuading a witness is considered a strike under the state’s “three-strikes” law. The defendant agreed to the plea deal before the case reached a preliminary hearing.

Authorities said Blackwell tried to prevent Martin from giving investigators information regarding the alleged crime, according to a filed criminal complaint. The accessory charge stemmed from harboring, concealing or aiding a felony suspect to avoid capture.

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.

The shooting occurred about 9:15p.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.

Authorities said 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, and that Robbie Blackwell left the store after being punched.

Luna and Ensey also left, authorities said, 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.

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.

During a preliminary hearing for Blackwell’s sons in late March, Martin said in court that she withheld information on the witness stand because she was threatened by the defendants’ mother. Martin testified that Nanci Blackwell told her not to tell authorities everything or “she’d f--- me up.”

Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova has scheduled a trial to start May 6 for Robbie Blackwell and Spangler. Both remain in custody at the jail.

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