Friday, October 31, 2014

Blaine murder case trial set for Jan. 20

Defendant accused of killing acquaintance over money dispute


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Keith Blankenship

    A jury trial remains scheduled to begin on Jan. 20, 2015, for a Blaine County man who is accused of killing an acquaintance, ostensibly over a $100 debt the defendant owed to the victim.
    Keith Eric Blankenship, 50, is charged with second-degree murder and evidence concealment or destruction, also a felony, in the death in January of Hailey resident 47-year-old Stephan Michael Romanchuk, who died from multiple gunshot wounds.
    Romanchuk’s partially decomposed body was found in May under a pile of leaves at Blankenship’s Deer Creek Road residence north of Hailey after Blankenship told Blaine County sheriff’s officer that he had shot Romanchuk, claiming he did so in self-defense.
    Blankenship’s case was discussed at a status hearing before Judge Jonathan P. Brody in Blaine County Fifth District Court on Oct. 21, wherein it was determined that rescheduling the trial date was not necessary. Brody, who normally presides in Fifth District Court in Minidoka County, was assigned to the case after Judge Robert J. Elgee was disqualified on a motion filed by the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. No reason for the Elgee disqualification was given, nor, as allowed by Idaho court rules, was the prosecutor’s office required to provide one.
    Blankenship is represented by Hailey attorney Keith Roark, who was assigned as public defender. At the Oct. 21 hearing, Brody granted a Roark request that his law partner Douglas Nelson be appointed “second chair counsel” at Blaine County expense as provided by contract between the Roark Law Firm and Blaine County.
Blankenship, meanwhile, remains incarcerated in the Blaine County jail on $500,000 bond.
    The next hearing scheduled in the case is a pretrial conference set for Jan. 6, 2015.




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