Two men charged with murdering a City of Tacoma employee - including the suspected gunman - remained at large late Monday as the city and relatives of Lisa Marie Melancon prepared a memorial to honor her.
A third man charged in Melancon’s death appeared in Pierce County Superior Court on Monday.
Prosecutors charged Olujimi A. Blakeney, Herman Jackson and Manuel A. Castillo each with first-degree murder and drive-by shooting in Melancon’s death. The 40-year-old code enforcement officer died late Thursday as she stood on the front porch of her home in the 7200 block of South Bell Street.
Police believe Blakeney fired the fatal shot from a car fleeing the scene of a fistfight outside Melancon’s home, according to court documents. Melancon, who had just called 911 to report the fight, had stepped onto her porch to call her husband inside when she was struck.
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Flags at all city offices flew at half-staff Monday in memory of Melancon. The popular employee and community activist will be honored Wednesday with a memorial service at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall.
Castillo surrendered to police late Saturday. He pleaded not guilty Monday in Superior Court. Court Commissioner Patrick Oishi ordered the 19-year-old man jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.
Prosecutors issued nationwide arrest warrants for Blakeney, 25, and Jackson, 28, who both have criminal records. They also are charged with unlawfully possessing a firearm in Melancon’s death.
Melancon’s sister Stephani Bubnick said Castillo’s arraignment was the first step in getting justice for her sister.
“We’ve seen one face,” said Bubnick, who along with other relatives wore to court a white T-shirt with Melancon’s photograph on it. “We want to see two more.”
Court documents filed Monday reveal what authorities believe led up to Melancon’s death.
Her next-door neighbors Jordan Kudla and Amie Hieronymus spent part of Thursday involved in “an angry text message dialogue” with Castillo’s girlfriend, Christina Roushey.
At some point, Castillo decided he wanted to fight Kudla over the messages.
Castillo, Blakeney and Jackson drove to the neighborhood and parked across the street from the Melancon residence.
Kudla and Castillo then began to fight. Castillo said Kudla brought a rifle and a baseball bat to the street but put them aside and fought only with his fists.
Some time during the fight Kudla’s mother came out with a baseball bat of her own and tried to separate the two combatants. Blakeney pulled out a pistol and fired a shot into the air to discourage her.
That shot broke up the fight, court records show, and Castillo, Blakeney and Jackson jumped into their car and drove away. Jackson was at the wheel with Blakeney in the front passenger seat and Castillo in the back.
Witnesses reported that the front-seat passenger pointed a gun out the window and fired at least two shots, “one of which was back toward people who were standing on the sidewalk in front of the Melancon house,” court records state.
Prosecutors charged the men with showing an “extreme indifference to human life.”
“Only a fool can think you’re going to shoot a gun at a group of people and not hit anyone,” Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist said Monday.
Castillo’s arraignment left Melancon’s family and his own in tears.
Eva Satiacum, Castillo’s mother, sobbed when Lindquist announced the charges against her son. Satiacum, who was seated in the second row of Courtroom 270, sobbed anew when Oishi announced the bail amount.
Meanwhile in the front row, Melancon’s mother, brother, sister and other relatives wiped at tears throughout the hearing.
Afterwards, the two groups exchanged hugs.
“I’m so sorry,” Satiacum said over and over to Melancon’s mother, Kathy Silva of Lakewood.
Outside court, Satiacum said her son simply intended to defend his girlfriend’s honor.
“He had no clue that there was a gun involved,” she said. “It was supposed to be a fistfight between him and a boy who had threatened his girlfriend.”
Vinney Silva, the victim’s brother, said he was glad to see Castillo facing justice but also expressed compassion for Castillo and his family.
“I just saw a scared young man,” Silva said. “He’s ruined his life too.”
Castillo has one criminal conviction in Pierce County, according to court records. He pleaded guilty in March 2009 to misdemeanor counts of reckless driving and obstructing a police officer. Prosecutors said he ran a stop sign, then tried to flee the police who pursued him.
He was sentenced to 30 days’ electronic home monitoring and to treatment for alcohol and drug abuse. He completed that treatment June 23.
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2 still at large
Warrants have been issued for Olujimi A. Blakeney, 25, and Herman Jackson, 28. Both have been charged with first-degree murder and drive-by shooting.
Blakeney, whose last known address is in Tacoma, is 5 feet 11 and 160 pounds. He has brown eyes and black hair.
Jackson, whose last known addresses are in and near Tacoma, is 5 feet 10 and 140 pounds. He has brown eyes and black hair.
Anyone who knows where the men are is asked to call 911 or Tacoma-Pierce County Crime Stoppers at 253-591-5959. Crime Stoppers is offering up to $1,000 for information leading to the men’s capture. Tipsters can remain anonymous.