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25 years after he murdered their mom, his kids disagree whether he should be released

SHARE 25 years after he murdered their mom, his kids disagree whether he should be released
A guard tower at the Utah State Prison .

A guard tower at the Utah State Prison on Sept, 14, 2020.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

UTAH STATE PRISON — Emery Blanchard says she has seen a change in her father, and after 25 years in prison believes it’s time to move on.

“What I’m hoping for is to close this chapter, is to put this 25 years — and frankly, some of the childhood nightmare — to rest. I’m ready to open my arms to my dad and offer him stable and reliable housing,” she told a member of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole on Tuesday.

But her brother, Michael Blanchard, believes their father is right where he belongs.

“I don’t believe for a second he can be rehabilitated. He’s just a monster. An old monster,” he said.

On Sept. 9, 1995, John Emery Blanchard, of Park City, brutally murdered his ex-wife, Patricia Ann Coon Blanchard, 45, whom he had a tumultuous relationship with, using his arm to strangle her with such force that a bone in her neck snapped. He was charged with capital murder.

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John Emery Blanchard, 76, had his first parole hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, 25 years after murdering his wife in Park City.

Utah State Prison

After a monthlong trial, a jury convicted Blanchard. But only four jurors voted for a death sentence. And the jury could not come to a consensus over whether to give Blanchard the possibility of parole. Because of that, he was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, angering groups such as the National Organization for Women.

The first parole hearing for Blanchard, now 76, was held Tuesday.

Prosecutors said Blanchard slashed the tires on his ex-wife’s truck that night, then broke into her home, crept up the stairs and raped her before strangling her with his hands.

After his arrest, Blanchard made vulgar statements about how she wouldn't die fast enough during a struggle he claimed lasted 20 minutes. He scrawled on a piece of paper: “For months I planned to kill her. I did it tonight. NO REGRETS!” He later told police 200 people in Park City probably wondered why he hadn’t kill his ex-wife sooner.

But at trial, he claimed those statements were lies. When he was asked on Tuesday to recount his crime, Blanchard again contended that some of the obscene statements he made 25 years ago were lies.

“I was beside myself,” he said. “I was angry. I was out of my mind.”

Blanchard admitted that he and Patti did not have a great relationship.

“We were as dysfunctional as you could imagine,” he said.

Blanchard was also abusing drugs and alcohol at the time. But he claimed Tuesday that the murder was not premeditated, and even seemed to imply it was in self-defense.

Blanchard said his ex-wife was leaving on a trip the next day, and asked him to come over that night to bring her money. He claims that she told him to not let the children know he was there, so he entered the house through a window. Blanchard said he went into her bedroom, placed the money on the bed and then sat there with his hands to his side and head in his lap.

“What I didn’t know was I was going to get clobbered from the back,” he said.

Blanchard said his ex-wife hit him in the back with a lamp, and then used her finger to try and gouge his eye out.

“I put my forearm across her neck, and felt and heard three pops,” he said. “It was not drawn out, it was very immediate.”

At several points during the parole hearing, Blanchard made the point that “I was the only one in the room” and that “it’s how I remembered it happened,” suggesting there were no other witnesses.

But Blanchard conceded the bedroom door was open during the attack, and based on testimony at trial, his daughter Emery, who was then 13, was outside the door.

Emery Blanchard said Tuesday she has “gone through all the emotions” over the past 25 years, and has attended therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. Over the years, Blanchard has met with her father in prison, and in her own life has worked as a victim advocate in Utah’s criminal justice system.

She said she is proud of her dad for becoming sober and being a model inmate while in prison. Now, she said she’s at place in her life where she’s looking for peace and empathy and to move on from that chapter.

“I’m very prepared for my dad’s release,” she said. “All he wants right now is peace and quiet.”

Blanchard said she also has concerns about her father’s age and being exposed to COVID-19 while in prison.

But her brother doesn’t share those feelings.

Michael Blanchard, who was 12 and asleep in another room when his mother was murdered, indicated that based on his father’s latest psychological exam conducted in August, he is still manic depressive, bipolar and a sociopath.

During his trial, prosecutors argued that John Blanchard was manipulative. His son said Tuesday that based on the information he has collected, not much has changed.

“I still believe he is that monster that I knew growing up,” he said.

While he said he’s proud of his father for doing well while in prison, “What got him there is the problem.”

Michael Blanchard doesn’t believe his father has the ability to feel for others and is only worried about his own needs. He asked the parole board to let his father serve his life sentence without the possibility of parole.

“We don’t feel safe with him around, even at his old age.” he said.

After his son spoke, John Blanchard responded by talking about both of his children’s accomplishments since his conviction, saying he’s been “blown away” at how well they’ve landed on their feet.

But he then again repeated that he was the only other person in the room that night, and that he killed her quickly.

“I’m very, very sorry that he doesn’t think I’m sorry,” he said. “I think it’s a very terrible story, and the terrible role I played. ... I would like you to know I’m sorry.”

The full five-member board will now vote whether to grant parole. A decision is expected in about two weeks.