CANTON — Amid allegations of attempts to influence witnesses and concerns about suicidal threats, a Superior Court judge ruled Friday to deny bond for a Ball Ground woman accused of killing her 77-year-old father in early May and then staying with his body for several days, never reporting the death.
During the five-hour hearing, Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge David Cannon Jr. also ruled enough evidence existed to allow the state to pursue the case against Andrea Blanton.
Blanton, 45, was arrested and charged May 16 with murder in the strangulation death of her elderly father, James Reece, also of Ball Ground. Cherokee Sheriff’s deputies found Reece’s body, which had already started decomposing, at his home on Northridge Road in Ball Ground where he lived with Blanton.
Blanton was originally arrested two days earlier and charged with failing to report her father’s death, which Lt. Jamie Gianfala of the Sheriff’s Office told the court Friday he believes was sometime late May 8 or early May 9.
Blanton sobbed quietly in the hearing as District Attorney Shannon Wallace detailed the circumstances of her father’s death.
Wallace said the prosecution believes Blanton may have strangled her father — who had dementia and was unable to care for himself — after she became frustrated while feeding him because he was spitting up on her. Witnesses said Blanton lived in Reece’s home and was his primary caregiver.
While Blanton was raised by Reece as her father, her mother, Brenda Reece, testified Friday that he was not her biological father but rather the father she has known since she was 18 months old, when Brenda Reece.
Gianfala was the first witness called by Wallace and testified that Blanton told investigators several different dates of the last time she saw her father alive.
Blanton first said that she spoke with her father for the last time on Sunday, May 12, Gianfala said.
“(The detective) told her that was not possible, because of the condition of the body,” he said. “She then said that she talked to him on Saturday, and again, based on the condition of the body, (the detective) told her that was not possible either.”
Gianfala said Blanton finally said she last talked to her father that Thursday.
During her first interview with police, Gianfala said Blanton was not accused of killing Reece, but was left alone near a recording device which recorded her telling one of her sons that “they think I killed him.”
Blanton also asked her son to tell police that he had seen his grandfather alive a few days before he was found, Gianfala said. Her son later admitted he had not seen Reece in weeks, the detective said.
Gianfala testified on the other findings of the investigation, which he said is still ongoing.
During the investigation, Gianfala said two cellphones were taken from Blanton, though she resisted turning them over to police.
One of the phones had a banner saved on the home screen, which Gianfala said was a factor in the investigation.
The banner read “I’m a murderer,” Gianfala said.
The file which saved this text was created after the time Reece is believed to have died, Gianfala said.
But Blanton’s attorney, Scott Poole, protested entering a photograph of this message into evidence, because the date on the phone’s screen in the image read a date in 2010.
Gianfala said he asked the investigator gathering information from the phone about the date shown and was reassured that the text was written after Reece’s death.
During a search of Reece and Blanton’s home, Gianfala said detectives also found what he called a “suicide note” written by Blanton, dated after authorities believe Reece died, at the home near downtown Ball Ground.
Poole argued the note more resembled a “living will” than a suicide note, but Wallace said one sentence in the note would’ve been out of place in a will.
That sentence, Wallace said, read that whoever found the note should “just let me suffer — I deserve it.”
Since being taken into custody May 16, Blanton’s mother, Brenda Reece, said her daughter has been on suicide watch at the Cherokee County jail. She is isolated in a cell without even a mattress, her mother told the judge.
In his closing arguments on whether probable cause existed to continue the case, Poole said that he did not believe the state had proved a solid case.
He argued that detectives have not fully explored other suspects, and that authorities believed Blanton killed her father before getting all the facts.
Poole added later that leaving Blanton on suicide watch and isolated in jail only contributed to any troubles she may have with her mental state.