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

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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

That wasn’t Blanchard, he said. His friend was outgoing and funny, often the life of the party, but he also was someone whom ohers respected.

Blanchard grew up within a complex family. The young men with him that night were his half brothers and a step-brother.

The young men were a tight-knit bunch and Blanchard was the oldest, someone they looked up to.
He was handy and savvy about mechanical things, and he often bought items on craigslist – a four wheeler, a boat motor, bicycles – that he repaired and resold for a profit.

He worked at Petco for a while, but felt he wasn’t getting enough work. Last summer he worked odd jobs, trying to earn enough to help cover the rent, while taking classes at Southern Maine Community College to become a plumber.

When Green died, Blanchard was charged with being involved in a fatal crash while driving on a suspended license, a felony.

Green had been good for Blanchard, said his father, Ron Blanchard. They were happy together. He was on a good path, but when she died, his life seemed to stop, too.

“Matt was a wreck,” recalled John Howard, who was with Blanchard the night he died. “He was like coming in and out of consciousness and just crying ... You couldn’t talk to him about it ... He felt guilty.”

“He wasn’t suicidal, but he didn’t want to live. That’s normal for anyone with a big heart,” Ron Blanchard said. Getting outside and walking was one of the few things that would clear his head.

WALK TOWARD TRAGEDY

The night Blanchard was killed, he and his friends gathered at Ron Blanchard’s small apartment on Washington Avenue,  off the peninsula, trying to keep Matt Blanchard’s mind off the tragedy. On an impulse, they set out for the 7-Eleven at Washington and Cumberland avenues, which is open 24 hours.

It was not unusual for Blanchard and his friends to walk through Portland late at night, Tracy said. They were familiar with the city and had always felt safe.

As they made their way down Washington Avenue, they kept to the sidewalk, heading in the same direction as traffic.

Blanchard, his ankle still in a cast since the car crash, was astride a BMX bike, rolling ahead of the group and occasionally turning back to rejoin them.

At first he had the cane he had been using balanced across the handlebars, but passed it to Howard, who hid it in the woods.

They were cheerful. They said they had been drinking but not excessively.

When they got to Tukeys Bridge, they followed the pedestrian walkway underneath, an area where youths sometimes hang out. They met a couple of teenagers from Limerick, also out on the town, who asked for directions to the 7-Eleven, where Blanchard and his friends were headed.

The entire group ambled toward the intersection of Cumberland and Washington avenues, spread out in smaller pairings.

Matt’s brother Corey Blanchard and Hersom took one route while Howard, Blanchard and one of the teens from Limerick split off to follow a path that was less steep.

The group reassembled at the 7-Eleven. Howard remembers talking to an older black man wearing a military-style jacket. He had been drinking and they talked amiably for several minutes.

Police have interviewed the Limerick youths, who they say seem to corroborate the account of that night given by Blanchard’s brothers.

Police say surveillance video at the store shows Blanchard rolling on his bike out of view of the camera, while Howard bought chips and a soft drink.

The group then walked a block along Congress Street to India Street and, at a stoop near the corner, Blanchard and Hersom sat down to eat while Howard and Corey Blanchard stood nearby.

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Additional Photos

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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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