Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Escape - Parricide
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: August 29, 1999
Date of birth: 1974
Victims profile: His wife Puthea Lee, 24, and two daughters, both under the age of 5
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Status: Killed during a shoot-out with the police the same day

Fugitive killed in raid on motel

By Joe Schoemann - Las Vegas Review_Journal

Monday, August 30, 1999

A man who escaped from the North Las Vegas jail is shot dead after police say he killed his family.

Timothy Blackburn already had killed his two little girls and was in the process of killing his wife when a SWAT team burst into his eastern Las Vegas motel room Sunday morning and shot him dead.

That's how the Metropolitan Police Department described the bloody end of a nearly three-week search for Blackburn, who escaped from the North Las Vegas jail with the help of his wife, Sophia Lee, 24, earlier this month.

When the shooting stopped -- one witness said he heard 10 to 15 shots -- Blackburn, 25, his wife and two daughters, both under the age of 5, were dead. Las Vegas homicide investigators were still scouring Budget Suites Room 234 at 6 p.m. Sunday, more than 12 hours after gunfire erupted.

A witness to the shooting, who only wanted to use his first name, Jorge, said at one point during hours of negotiations, Blackburn came out of the apartment with one hand around his wife's neck.

"He was yelling things, I don't know what exactly," said the young man. "I thought he might kill them all."

Stunned residents and employees of the Budget Suites at 4625 Boulder Highway, near Flamingo Road, said little to reporters.

Blackburn became one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives earlier this month when he broke out of the North Las Vegas jail, 2240 Civic Center Drive.

A massive manhunt ensued, involving federal and local authorities. It reached a climax on Aug. 20, when police and FBI agents swarmed on Mount Charleston on a hunch that a Nissan parked in the desert belonged to Blackburn. An estimated 60 officers, including SWAT snipers, converged on a family of four who huddled together and prayed.

It had been the third false sighting of the 25-year-old since his escape, which took place Aug. 11. On that night, investigators said, Blackburn's wife came to visit him at 11:05, carrying a gun and an electric screwdriver to remove the screws in the window that separates visitors from inmates. At the time, the jail was not equipped with metal detectors for visitors. Jail administrators promised a thorough review of procedures and said they were in the process of procuring a detector.

Police described what happened next in a criminal complaint filed in federal court after the escape.

"At 11:45 p.m., Timothy Lee Blackburn climbed through the opening into the visitors room and followed his wife through the exit doors, which she had left ajar," said the document.

Gunfire broke out in the parking lot as two warrant officers attempted to stop Blackburn from fleeing.

Blackburn was being held on federal charges stemming from the Dec. 21, 1998, robbery of about $1.1 million from a Bank of America ATM repository at 4215 E. Charleston Blvd. An armed guard was shot in the chest during the heist.

His case was scheduled to go to trial Oct. 13. If convicted, Blackburn likely would have faced life in federal prison, said his attorney, Ulrich Smith.

Homicide Sgt. Ken Hefner said police learned of Blackburn's location around 2:30 p.m. Saturday. He said investigators contacted Blackburn and began several hours of negotiations over the telephone.

"The negotiations started to deteriorate, and Blackburn threatened the lives of his wife and family," Hefner said.

Early Sunday, SWAT officers entered the apartment, Hefner said, while Blackburn shot his wife and children.

"Two SWAT officers fired at Blackburn, hitting him several times," said Hefner.

The children were taken to an unidentified hospital, but they died from their wounds. Blackburn and his wife were declared dead at the scene.

The Police Department does not report the names of officers involved in shootings until 48 hours after an incident.


Jailbreak puts Blackburn in some notorious company

By Martin Kuz - Las Vegas Sun

Thursday, Aug. 26, 1999

Timothy Blackburn's ability to evade authorities since breaking out of jail Aug. 11 makes the alleged bank robber one of the most elusive quarries sought by local FBI officials in recent memory.

FBI Special Agent Kevin Caudle places Blackburn in notorious company, comparing him with the likes of suspected armored truck robbers Heather Tallchief and Roberto Zelaya-Solis, and convicted thief Anthony Frisco.

Blackburn, 25, and Robert Bates, 26, are suspected of stealing $1 million from a Bank of America ATM repository at 4215 E. Charleston in December. Two weeks ago Blackburn, allegedly with the help of his wife, Puthea Lee, escaped from the North Las Vegas Corrections Center. The whereabouts of the couple and their two young daughters remain unknown.

Six years ago Tallchief, then 21 and a driver for Loomis Armored Inc., drove away from Circus Circus in an armored van loaded with $3.1 million while two coworkers were inside the casino filling ATM machines. She rendezvoused with Zelaya-Solis, then 48, her boyfriend and the alleged mastermind of the crime. Hours later the couple boarded a chartered jet to Denver, and authorities haven't spotted them since.

Less than a year later, on Aug. 9, 1994, Frisco and his girlfriend Misty Leann Smith pulled off a similar caper. Smith, then 23 and a Brinks Inc. employee, sped off in an armored truck carrying $1.8 million from the Belz Factory Outlet World mall while a coworker was inside the building.

From there Smith met up with Frisco, and the two fled the country. Three weeks after the heist authorities finally tracked down Frisco, then 29, and most of the cash in Costa Rica. Smith was found dead in a Mexico hotel room two weeks later, the apparent victim of severe dehydration. Frisco pleaded guilty to the robbery in 1996.

Blackburn has avoided law enforcement's clutches for 15 days and counting, and Caudle speculated that the fugitive may have left the country. What qualifies Blackburn's case as unusual is that authorities suspect he has fled with his family.

"We can't find the wife and kids. That's a little hard, to hide four people," Caudle said.

North Las Vegas jail officials said Blackburn is the first inmate to break out of the facility and remain at large for longer than a half-day. Sgt. Dan Lake said the jail, which houses 650 inmates, has seen only two other escape attempts that were marginally successful.

The first incident involved an inmate who made it outside the jail before getting stuck trying to climb the perimeter fence. In the other, two inmates escaped, but authorities caught one just outside the facility, and recaptured the second man 12 hours later.

No one has ever successfully escaped from the 1,488-bed Clark County Detention Center, although inmates have gained premature release through inadvertent paperwork snafus, according to Capt. Henry Hoogland, the facility's custody bureau director.

Still, he cautioned, "When you start saying it can't happen, something does. We've been fortunate not to have a forced escape like that."

The lone escape from a Nevada state prison so far this year occurred Jan. 22. Roy Burney Bell, 39, allegedly broke out of the Desert Correctional Center in Indian Springs by crawling underneath a produce truck delivering supplies to the medium-security prison and wedging himself between the fuel tank and body frame. Authorities recaptured the convicted robber 10 days later.

The state prison system, comprised of 20 facilities that hold a total of 9,115 inmates, has greater difficulty containing inmates in residential-confinement and work-release programs. This year 27 inmates -- out of a population of 1,871 -- have walked away from such programs and eight remain at large, according to Glen Whorton, chief of classification and planning for the Nevada Department of Prisons.

Inmates who flee municipal, county and state facilities typically land back in custody within a few hours. Raphael Basurto, Nevada's longest missing prisoner, represents the exception. Convicted in the early 1970s for what Wharton could only recall as "infamous crimes against nature," Basurto broke out of a state prison in Carson City in 1975 and has never been found.

But the Basurtos of the penal world are a rare breed. Most escapees display far less craftiness in eluding law enforcement, done in by what can be charitably described as a breathtaking lack of brains.

"So many of these guys get stopped when they're in a car," Whorton said. "They get pulled over for having their headlights out or registration expired. I mean, it's like, 'Didn't you check? Didn't you see that stop sign?' "


Police trail a mix-up

Reports indicate a family mistaken for suspects was 'huddled and praying' as police converged upon them

By Michael Amon - Las Vegas Review-Journal

Saturday, August 21, 1999

A phalanx of Las Vegas police and FBI agents swarmed Friday on Mount Charleston on a hunch that a Nissan parked in the desert belonged to fugitive Timothy Blackburn.

But it was not Blackburn's sport utility vehicle.

For about 90 minutes Friday afternoon, four innocent people with no link to Blackburn but a similar car were hunted by more than 60 police officers, FBI agents, SWAT team officers and snipers on an isolated stretch of desert. One of the four was a 2-year-old child.

"They were doing nothing wrong. Unfortunately, everything matched our description of the suspect's vehicle and family," Las Vegas police spokesman Steve Meriwether said.

It was the third false sighting of the 25-year-old charged with bank robbery since he escaped from a North Las Vegas jail in a blaze of gun fire Aug. 11 with the help of his wife, Sophia Lim. The two previous sightings were in Henderson, Meriwether said.

The siege began when a police helicopter conducting routine surveillance over Kyle Canyon spotted a vehicle similar to the one Blackburn is thought to be driving, Meriwether said.

The party also resembled the group with whom Blackburn is believed to be running: his wife, two children and a male friend.

Law enforcement officials released very little information about the incident, and the names and ages of the ambushed people were not available.

The FBI did not return repeated phone calls throughout the afternoon.

It was unknown whether the four people were a family.

After seeing the vehicle at about noon, law enforcement units began to arrive en masse at the State Route 157-Harris Springs Road intersection, about 13 miles west of U.S. Highway 95.

The units included unmarked police cars, all-terrain vehicles, fire trucks, ambulances, a helicopter, surveillance vehicles and two "Peacekeepers," which are armored vehicles that allow officers to enter into tense situations where there is little cover.

Snipers with long guns were positioned on ridges overlooking the valley where the people were. Police had cut off all available escape routes and roads from the valley.

According to accounts on scanners that monitor police radios, the family was "huddled and praying around the car" as law enforcement officers approached them. The three adults were taken into custody at 1:30 p.m., but they were not arrested or booked on any charges.

"There's no crime to just hang out up there and act suspicious," Meriwether said, adding that they were in a remote area.

Blackburn has been on the run since he made his daring escape from the North Las Vegas jail, which houses hundreds of federal inmates.

Lim, 24, brought a drill to a scheduled 30-minute visit and unscrewed the thick pane of glass that separated them.

After walking out of the jail without any problems, Blackburn and Lim ran to a getaway car.

They exchanged gunfire with police who tried to stop them before they reached the car.

The escape has caused North Las Vegas police officials to re-examine their visitation policies and set up metal detectors.

Blackburn was arrested in connection with the Dec. 21 robbery of $1.1 million from an automated teller machine repository at a Bank of America vault at 4215 E. Charleston Blvd.

A guard was shot in the robbery, not fatally.

Blackburn was scheduled to go to trial Oct. 13 in U.S. District Court with his accomplice, Robert Bates.


Timothy Blackburn



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