Saturday, February 10, 2007

Of Roses, Black and Red - Part 10

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9

How could someone just disappear? I know it happens every day, but you always think it will never happen to anyone you know. But it does. And it did. To me and everyone who knew Blair.

I felt very guilty for not calling her back that evening. I kept thinking that if I had tried to contact her that I could have added another piece of information to the investigation. If I had called her boyfriend's house and she had been there, or called her place and reached her, or something, then more questions could have possibly been answered. This was all in the days before cell phones were commonplace. We just take for granted now that we can call anyone and say "Hey, what are you doing right now?" Regardless, I suspect that I would not have reached her even if I had tried.

Things were really weird for the next month or two. There were many phone calls back to California to try and piece together what could have happened. Since I wasn't out there I missed a lot of the really agonizing stuff, like the police questionings, flyer postings, news reports, and the search parties. The police wanted to question my boyfriend because they said he was the last person besides the ex that Blair had spoken to. I kept waiting for them to call or supoena me, but since I was in Ohio when it all went down they decided I was unimportant.

In a way I'm glad I wasn't there, because Cheryl said it was madness. Her house turned into headquarters and people called her at all hours of the night. Nobody knew what to believe. Was the ex involved? Was it the boyfriend? Was it someone else who attacked her in her apartment, or as she was entering the building? Did she just take off, abandoning her horse and daughter?

Here are some things of interest about the case that I remember. What do you think? Of course I have my own opinions.

  • Her apartment showed no signs of forced entry.
  • Her purse was not found (I think...)
  • Her blood was found in the ex's truck, house, and clothing. He said in his deposition that this was because Blair used to run around the house with her used tampons and throw them against the wall. Yeah, women ALWAYS do that.
  • A few weeks before she disappeared she started telling people "If the brakes suddenly go out on my truck you'll know it was my ex" - he was a mechanic.
  • Shortly after her disappearance her ex said "It sure is going to be hard raising our daughter alone." At this point she wasn't assumed dead, just missing. Kind of suspicious.

Sad events had to take place. Someone had to go clean out her apartment, where they found Christmas presents that she had bought for her daughter, friends, and family. Someone had to take custody of Bo, and after much debate he went to live with Blair's sister who had horses and many acres of land. All of her tack was up for grabs. I was asked if I wanted any of it, and I chose some pretty strange items. I still use one of the soft body brushes when I got to shows with my horse. Kind of for good luck. I can't use it without thinking of her.

Blair's sisters decided to have a memorial service for her the following spring, which was highly attended by horse people. It was actually an agonizing experience, complete with pictures and personal belongings of Blair's. Llano was brought in and led around with her boots backwards in the stirrups. It was supposed to be very somber and symbolic, but Llano was uncharacteristically freaked out and was a snorting, blowing, prancing loon. Instead of being a nice presentation it turned into a spectacle, with me and Cheryl cursing and trying to control her stressed out and obviously upset horse.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Blair. We were all at a show and Cheryl and I were about to go into the ring. That's Cheryl on the left, and me on the right. When Blair saw we were getting our picture taken she ran up behind us for this memorable shot. Her sisters put this picture on the back of the program for her memorial service.

For awhile no-one was arrested for anything because it was unclear if this was a missing person case or a murder. If it was murder, the immediate suspects were the ex and the boyfriend. The police had heard about the raunchy voicemail and questioned the guy who left it for Blair. He denied having anything to do with her disappearance, saying "I may be a pervert but I'm not a murderer." Ultimately the ex was arrested and charged with her murder. The ex swore that he had nothing to do with it and that she had just run away. We all knew that she would never leave her horses, and, more importantly, her daughter behind. If she and her daughter had disappeared, then I might have believed him. It's hard to convict someone for murder without a body, but they thought they had enough evidence to make it happen.

They failed miserably. They made a lot of deals with the ex's lawyers so that some of the evidence was never presented to the jury. The prosecuters were trying to keep some of the unsavory elements of Blair's past out of court (like all the partying and drug use when she was younger), but I think they shot themselves in the foot because much of the incriminating stuff wasn't heard in court. The ex was cleared of all charges and was free to go.

After the trial the ex tried to get Blair's sisters to grant him a divorce so he could get remarried. They refused, mostly because he had refused to officially divorce Blair before she disappeared. He was required to wait seven years until she was legally declared dead.

All of us from the barn kept in touch for awhile, but most people just sort of drifted away. It was just so strange, and for a few years we talked about her a lot. But it was so hard emotionally. There was anger at Blair for suspecting she was in danger and then not taking steps to protect herself. There was sadness at the loss of our friend. There was confusion about what had happened. And there were many unanswered questions.

Blair's body has never been found. Psychics and search dogs were unable to produce any results. Most of us from the barn have our ideas about where she might be. One summer, a horse that was in training with Blair died at the barn (that's a whole different story that I'll tell later). She was dating the ex at the time and he worked down the hill at the rock quarry. It's not legal to bury a horse in California without a permit, which is costly and takes time to get approved, and Blair couldn't bear to have the horse hauled away by the meat truck. Blair and the ex loaded the horse onto a tractor with a front end loader and drove up behind the barn and quarry into the California Open Space Preserve. They dug a hole and buried him. It was all very illegal, and she would not let anyone come with them. They also would not disclose the location of the horse, because they could get in a lot of trouble, with fines and possible jail time for burying a horse on state land. The ex even commented "We buried that horse so deep nobody will ever find it."

I've always supected that Blair's ex buried her body in the same spot. I can't prove it, but I wish she had told me where the horse was so I could tell the police where to look.

What happened to Blair isn't my fault, of course, but I still feel a responsibility to her, even after all these years. Blair contributed greatly to my journey with horses, and she gave me the solid foundation upon which I've been able to build to great success with my horse. Most importantly, Blair taught me what it really meant to be a rider, to connect with a horse in a fashion that you just can't explain to someone who doesn't ride.

Blair teaching a lesson in early October, 1990 - two months before her disappearance

Blair, wherever you are, I hope you're at peace. And I hope you have a firm seat on a willing horse that takes you everywhere you ever wanted to go.




janice said...

wow. amazing story. (great writing, too, Craig doesn't have all of the wordsmithy skills in the family!)

Rising Rainbow said...

I'm sorry to hear about your friend. After the last post, I expected as much. I know the continuum of violence well and what you described was at the far end with death being the next step.

I understand your frustration at the legal system as well, I've had the same experience. My daughter was molested by her father (who was also a batterer and stalker who tried to kill me more than once). A jury found him not guilty with five of his victims sitting in the room.

You are right, it's not your fault but I wonder if you know that in your head but still struggle in your heart.

You've been a good friend to her, that's the most anyone could do.

Garlanda said...

How very sad. I'm really sorry to hear about it, and sorry for your loss. Things like this leave a hole that gaps open forever. If only you knew - it would make the endings so much easier.

Mare said...

Wow that's a very sad story. Well writen, but sad. I'm sorry you were never able to learn the truth...

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