DOVE CREEK – DNA evidence collected during a murder investigation last year will be allowed at trial this spring.
William Blackburn, 45, of Dove Creek, is charged with second-degree murder as an act of domestic violence in the killing of 61-year-old Cindy Johnson on the night of Jan. 7, 2014. The pending homicide case is the first in Dove Creek, a rural community of about 700 residents, in more than three decades.
According to court records, public defender Justin Bogan challenged DNA evidence collected during a police interview eight days after the Johnson’s death. Bogan argued that the Dolores County Sheriff’s Office failed to advise his client of his rights and collected the DNA evidence without Blackburn’s consent.
Last week, District Court Judge Todd Plewe ruled against the defense motion, clearing the way for prosecutors to offer the DNA evidence at trial.
“During the interview, the defendant signed a voluntary consent to provide a buccal swab for DNA testing,” Plewe wrote in his ruling on Jan. 21.
Expected to last up to two weeks, Blackburn’s trial is set to start on March 7.
As a result of that same police interview last year, Bogan also filed a motion to suppress statements made by his client, arguing that Blackburn was illegally detained when questioned.
“The officers asked the defendant if he would mind speaking with them about the death,” Plewe noted in his written ruling, denying the suppression motion. “The defendant agreed to come with them to the Sheriff’s Office located a few blocks away. No threats, commands or promises were made to get the defendant to come to the office with the officers.”
Bogan also requested that his client’s statements made to police the day after the alleged murder be suppressed. Blackburn reportedly called police to the home, stating he found Johnson dead on the couch.
“The entry into the home was not illegal – it was by invitation,” Plewe wrote, denying the defense motion. “His statements to law enforcement were not involuntary and they were not the product of interrogation in any way.”
Plewe also denied a defense motion for a change of venue filed last September.
Investigators believe that Johnson was strangled after she refused to join the defendant in bed. According to Dolores County Sheriff Jerry Martin, Johnson suffered bruising on her throat and arms as well as hemorrhaging in her eyes. Blackburn’s DNA evidence was reportedly found under the alleged victim’s fingernails.
Bogan contends that the alleged victim died of a drug overdose inside the couple’s home on the 1000 block of North Pine Street
If convicted, Blackburn faces up to 48 years in prison. He remains in custody under a $200,000 bond.