February 19, 2013

Search for answers in a senseless killing

Family and friends want justice for a young man who struggled with his own role in a separate tragedy.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Matt Blanchard was despondent over the death of his girlfriend, Casey Green, so much so that the 24-year-old couldn’t bring himself to return to the apartment they shared in Gray.

click image to enlarge

Portland police collect and photograph evidence at 105-107 India St. following the still-unsolved shooting death of 24-year-old Matt Blanchard during the early-morning hours of July 11, 2012.

Matt Blanchard

Additional Photos Below

It had been two weeks since Blanchard dozed off at the wheel of Green’s car and crashed into a tree, killing her.

He couldn’t focus or sleep. He often seemed oblivious to the people around him.

Those closest to him – half brothers and cousins he grew up with – stayed by his side trying to help him through his depression.

It was that concern that brought Blanchard and three of his brothers together last summer, late on the moonlit night of July 10. They wandered around Portland, eventually stopping at a stoop on India Street to eat a snack of potato chips and soda.

Not long after, in the early morning hours of the next day, Blanchard was dead – shot by an unknown gunman. Months later, his killer is still at large and investigators are still seeking clues.

As time goes on, family and friends, including the three young men who were with Blanchard that night, worry that the case is no longer a priority for police.

They also know that many people believe the four did something to provoke the shooting, that it must have been a drug deal gone bad or some racial confrontation. Otherwise, people would have to believe, as the brothers contend, that the shooting was random, suggesting a level of deadly violence in a city that has seen very little of that.

Unsolved homicides in Portland are rare. Before Blanchard’s death, there had been only 10 since 1985.

Police say they remain committed to solving the case, that homicides are always the department’s top priority.

They say they are continually reviewing the file on Blanchard’s death, looking for new leads.

Detectives have examined all the surveillance videos taken that night from area businesses, collected trace evidence and interviewed many people who saw Blanchard and his friends that night.

But the reality is that random crimes, with no obvious connection between suspects and victims, are the hardest to solve.

Sometimes, the only way a case is resolved is when somebody with information is arrested for something else, and wants to trade that information for leniency.

Another possibility is that a ballistics match will be found for bullets taken from the scene of Blanchard’s killing. If the same gun turns up at another crime scene, police will have a starting point, if not a road map, to finding Blanchard’s killer.

KEEPING THE CASE ALIVE

Blanchard’s friend Matthew Tracy said it was the current debate over gun control that led him to reach out to the Portland Press Herald recently in an effort to draw attention to Blanchard as a victim of gun violence.

Tracy said he saw a commercial with pictures of people killed by guns and he wondered why his friend wasn’t among them.

“We never owned guns,” he said. The only time they even handled a gun was when he and Josh Hersom found one behind a fence on Douglass Street more than 12 years ago, when they were still kids, he said. They turned the gun over to police.

Tracy worries that police and the public are making assumptions about Blanchard and that his case gets less attention because he is from a low-income family.

Tracy said the photo of Blanchard that media outlets used when he died show him partying, looking like a tough kid, even though there were other photos that showed him dressed nicely.

“I feel like the whole way they did it all made it seem like he was not a good person, a punk dealing drugs or something,” he said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Ron Blanchard, left, father of murder victim Matt Blanchard, talks about his son along with Logan Howard, Matt’s uncle, and John Howard, Matt’s brother. They insist the killing was a random act of violence.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

  


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