Breckenridge Texan

Defense rests, but more testimony to come in Blair trial

October 03
20:47 2017

The defense rested its case Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 3, in the Elton Carroll “E.C.” Blair murder trial taking place in the Stephens County District Courtroom, but according to activity that took place after the jury was dismissed for the day, testimony may not be over.

In another end-of-the-day court request, with no jury present, District Attorney Dee Peavy and Special Prosecutor David Alex asked that they be allowed to present extraneous evidence in the case that they say shows that Blair has a history that involves actions similar to those for which he is on trial.

“The defendant E.C. Blair on a previous occasion had an affair with the mother of his son Aaron Blair’s son, Aaron’s girlfriend that he had a baby with,” Peavy said. When the woman tried to break off the relationship with Blair, he paid one of his employees to throw bricks through her window and her car, the district attorney alleged.

“The MO (modus operandi) was the same,” Peavy said. “The situations are so similar. It was the same son, the same wife that he cheated on. Both of the women were half his age. Both fell victim to him.”

The prosecution went on to say that when the other woman filed a police report about the harassment, Blair paid her to not identify the suspect in a police lineup.

“Furthermore,” the district attorney said, “we have Aaron Blair, who came in here and said his father just hires these criminals out of the goodness of his heart, to give them another chance. He does this because they do his bidding.”

The previous case took place in 2008, seven years before Blair was involved with Leah Martin, who was the mother of Aaron Blair’s daughter. Martin worked for E.C. Blair and disappeared on May 29, 2015, after attending the Graham High School graduation. Her body was found in August 2015 on property where Ross Hellams lived in Young County. Hellams worked for Blair and is a co-defendant in the murder. Also allegedly involved was Billy Minkley Jr., a friend of Hellams. Minkley has pleaded guilty to the murder in exchange for a life sentence in this case and an offer of a plea deal in another case in which he has confessed to killing three people in Fort Worth. Blair’s case is being tried in Breckenridge on a change of venue.

Blair’s defense attorney David Wimberley argued to the judge that the extraneous evidence and testimony should not be admitted because they are not related to anything the defense has already presented in court.

“There has not been one thing that we’ve discussed about something that happened nine years ago,” Wimberley said. “This has nothing to do with anything that we’ve brought forth previously. We never opened the door to this.

“They can’t wait till we’ve called all our witnesses and say, ‘Oh, we forgot something we want to bring up,’” Wimberley continued.

Alex counter-argued that the rebuttal portion of the trial is the best time to introduce extraneous evidence.

After taking a brief break, 90th District Judge Stephen Bristow ruled in favor of the prosecution. A witness, Joshua Wells, was sworn in and will begin testimony at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4.

Earlier testimony

Wimberley started off Tuesday morning’s court session by calling witness Barry Gober, president of First State Bank in Graham, to the stand. Gober testified that Blair’s business loan was with FSB but that he had little equity. When the property was sold for $320,000 and both liens paid off, Blair received $12,035.26. Gober also provided details about an 18-wheeler that Blair was a co-maker on. He said that when the truck was repossessed and sold, there was no equity and that Blair did not make any money on the sale. During cross-examination, Alex questioned Gober about the benefit of being a co-maker or co-signer, even if no money was made on the deal.

The next witness was Jamey Montgomery, a banker formerly from Olney, who had worked with Blair on co-signed loans. He testified that in early April 2015, Blair attempted to co-sign a loan for a used vehicle for Ross Hellams but that the loan was denied. He also testified that when Blair was co-signing for loans at InterBank, he seemed to understand what he was doing.

Then, Pete Clark, who installed the alarm system and security camera system at E.C.’s Auto Repair, the shop Blair owned and where Martin worked. In his confession, Minkley said he killed Martin at the shop. The cameras were not working the day Martin disappeared. Clark testified that on May 31, 2015, he accompanied Blair and police investigators to the shop to check out the security system.

Clark’s testimony was different than that of former Graham police investigator Jim Reeves, who testified Monday afternoon. Clark said that while he was checking the security system in the attic of the shop, he reset the power strip, which restarted the system. Then, he took a computer monitor up into the ceiling space and checked to see when the system had shut down. He stated that it had turned off at about 3 a.m. a couple of weeks before Martin went missing and that the last video recorded showed rain outside, indicating to him that a storm cause an electrical surge that shut down the system. He testified that he reported that information to the investigators that day in the shop. Clark also said that a text message Blair sent him about the security system across the street from the shop was regarding Blair’s needing a loaner system since the police had taken his as evidence.

Clark also testified that the last video recorded on Blair’s shop system did not show any activity in the building for several hours prior to the system shutting down; therefore, if someone had shut it down purposefully, they would have had to been in the building for several hours without moving around in the building.

The next witness was Carolyn Moore, the owner of a dry cleaner shop in Graham. She testified that at least six weeks before Martin disappeared, Moore sold a glass display case to Blair. He left the case in her store until she called him to pick it up after Martin went missing because she needed the space in her business.

Other testimony came from a former AutoZone employee who testified he had seen Blair get visibly agitated by Minkley, and from a wrecker driver who said that he towed a vehicle to Blair’s shop after dark on May 29, 2015. A woman who knows Blair testified that she had seen Hellams and Martin together on two occasions at a property adjacent to the place where Martin was buried. Additionally, a man who had been in the Young County jail at the same time as Hellams and Minkley, after they were charged with Martin’s murder, said that he had delivered a message to Hellams from Minkley in the jail. A specialty mechanic who had done some work for Blair testified that there were frequent problems with both the security cameras and the alarm system at the shop.

Daniel Sinyard, a mechanic who had worked for Blair testified that Hellams had used him as an alibi when he didn’t want his wife to know where he was. The mechanic also said that there were frequent problems with the security cameras and that he had seen Martin trying to fix the system. Under cross-examination, he testified that he is good friends with Blair. He said that recently, Blair had come into his office when two witnesses in the trial were there but that they didn’t discuss the trial, the case or testimony.

Angel Hammond testified that Blair was not only a good friend but also one of her biggest customers when she was the commercial sales manager at AutoZone in Graham. She said that she frequently delivered parts to the shop and often saw Hellams make inappropriate comments to Martin and that Martin complained about it.

She testified she was there the Saturday after Martin went missing and that she was sitting on the back of a pickup, talking to Blair and Hellams about Martin, wondering where she was. “(Hellams) was sweaty and dirty and his eyes were bugged out. Ross wouldn’t talk to anybody; he just looked off,” she said. “It was very weird. He’d never acted like that around me before.”

She said at that time Blair acted concerned about Martin. Under cross-examination, she testified she had never told police about her observations that day. She also said she has not had contact with Blair since she was told she would be a witness.

The last witness who was allowed to testify was Eric Brown, the former jail administrator at the Young County jail. He confirmed that inmates had the ability to communicate with each other in the jail and that Hellams was assaulted in the jail.

The final witness called by the defense attempted to testify that Blair wanted to buy her car for Martin, but her testimony was considered “hearsay” and was not allowed.

Immediately after the last witness stepped down, Wimberley declared that the defense was resting its case. At that time, the prosecution sought to present the extraneous evidence.

 

Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

 

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