Breckenridge Texan

September 26
16:14 2017
E.C. Blair photo

E.C. Blair

As Graham police investigator Lt. Jeff Smith continued his testimony in the Elton Carroll “E.C.” Blair murder trial Tuesday morning, Sept. 26, District Attorney Dee Peavy presented statements made by the defendant in police interviews and a jailhouse phone call with one of the other suspects.

Blair is on trial for the 2015 murder of Leah Martin in Graham. The trial is being held the Stephens County Courthouse in Breckenridge on a change of venue.

Smith described many of Blair’s statements in a June 24, 2015, interview at the Graham Police Department as suspicious and desperate. In the recorded interview, which was played in court Tuesday, Blair tells Smith that he felt pressured by a car salesperson to co-sign on a car loan for Martin. He had worked with the same salesperson on a deal for Krista Hellams, wife of co-defendant Ross Hellams. However, Blair said that he didn’t realize he was “co-buying” the car with Krista Hellams and that he thought he was just “co-signing.”

“I wasn’t going to be pushed into it, like I was with Hellams,” Blair said on the video. “I could’ve stopped all of this that was going on without making her disappear. It wasn’t going to be good, but it had to come to that. It got real deep with the car.”

Peavy stopped the video at that point and asked Smith what his impression of Blair was at that point in the interview. “He was feeling really desperate,” the investigator said.

After the video of the interview was finished, Peavy moved on to a recording of a phone call between Blair and Ross Hellams when Hellams was in the Young County Jail and Blair was out on bail. Before playing the recording, Peavy confirmed with Smith that Hellams had first been arrested in August 2015 on a weapons charge. Then, on Sept. 22, 2015, Blair was arrested on capital murder charges; at the same time, Hellams was also charged with capital murder, as was co-defendant Billy Minkley Jr., who pleaded guilty to the charge of murder in a plea deal last week. In October 2015, a Young County grand jury indicted the three men, charging them with murder, rather than capital murder.

At the time of the phone call, on Dec. 1, 2015, Blair had bonded out of jail, and Hellams was still in the Young County Jail. Tuesday morning, defense attorney David Wimberley pointed out that the phone call was made from Hellams to Blair.

A short time into the phone call, Blair asks Hellams, “What in the **** have you done?”

In the recording, Blair’s voice is strong and loud, and Hellams’ is lower and more difficult to hear. As it played in the courtroom, Peavy often stopped the recording to check with Smith to see what was being said.

At one point, Hellams can be heard saying, “My mind is gone. I’m gonna kill myself.” Blair tells him, “You don’t want to do this.”

“No one can walk away from this,” Hellams said.

“I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if you were up there or what,” Blair replies.

Blair continues talking, telling Hellams that he hasn’t told anyone anything, specifically mentioning Smith. However, Peavy confirms with Smith that the phone call took place after Blair had talked with Smith several times.

In one part of the conversation that Peavy indicated was concerning, Blair asked Hellams, “What did you tell them, so I’ll know what to do, Ross?”

Throughout the phone call, Blair attempts to assure Hellams that he has talked to Hellams’ wife, Krista, and that he’s trying to convince her not to file for a divorce from Hellams. When Peavy turned back to Smith, she asked him about Krista’s relationship with Blair. Smith said Krista has a close relationship with Blair and had sent him “inappropriate” text messages.

Additionally, he said that during police interviews, Krista had not mentioned that she had texted Blair on May 29, 2015, the night Leah Martin was killed. In that text, according to documents presented in court, Krista asked Blair if he was still at the shop – E.C.’s Auto Repair shop that Blair owned, where Leah worked and allegedly where she was killed – and asked him when Hellams would be going home.

The text has been brought up several times in the trial because, according to police investigators, Blair never reported that Hellams might have been at the shop the night Leah disappeared and has denied knowing who might have been there. His failure to mention that piece of information has been presented as suspicious by the District Attorney.

After the phone call was played for the jury, District Judge Stephen Bristow dismissed court at 11:30 a.m. due to a prior commitment he had that was arranged before the trial was moved from August to September. The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27.

 

By Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

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