Stanley: 27 years later, murder victim’s family still waits for answers
By BRIAN STANLEY Life of Brianfirstname.lastname@example.org January 26, 2013 8:52PM
Updated: February 28, 2013 6:33AM
Despite 27 years of silence, Timothy Blackwell’s sister holds out hope someone knows who killed him.
“Maybe (bringing it up again) can get my family and I the answer we have waited for to close a painful chapter in our lives,” Tiffany McCullum said recently. “I just want those who are responsible to know and understand, Timothy was a person, a brother and a son. (We) have not forgotten, and will not give up what we believe in, and that is justice for Timothy.”
About 10 a.m. Jan. 21, 1986, Blackwell, 18, reportedly was walking with a friend to pay a traffic ticket at Second and Iowas avenues in Joliet.
McCullum insists her brother was not a gang member and police did not identify him as one but did report he associated with gang members.
McCullum once was told the 17-year-old friend Blackwell was with wanted to get back in a street gang and set him up for an ambush. From the backseat of a green Buick, a gang member ordered the driver out of the car and told him to take care of Blackwell because his friend wouldn’t. When the driver hesitated, the passenger shot Blackwell.
A family living nearby noticed three or four young men in the vacant lot, heard a loud bang and saw them scatter.
Another neighbor told police she distinctly heard a shotgun blast a few seconds before Blackwell’s 17-year-old friend was knocking on her door asking her to call the police.
She did and officers arrived to find Blackwell lying face down “blood flowing from his mouth ... gasping for breath.” He would be taken off life support three days later.
As he was being questioned in the back of a squad car at the scene, Blackwell’s friend told officers about the green Buick. The father of the family living nearby overheard that conversation and made it a point to tell detectives he hadn’t seen a car in the area. His wife and another neighbor gave similar statements.
Blackwell’s friend initially was unable to identify the assailants, but after detectives allowed him to talk to his parents at the police station, the young man identified a gang member and said he believed he was the actual target for hanging out with a new gang. He said he hadn’t identified the suspect right away for fear of having to testify in court.
The suspect was interviewed and denied being in a gang or knowing Blackwell. He was arrested on a charge of “accountability to murder” a few days later, but the inconsistencies Blackwell’s friend had told investigators led to the charge being dropped a month later.
Tests later determined Blackwell was killed by a single shotgun blast fired from some distance away. (All of the witnesses and Blackwell’s friend reported the two men were standing close together when the shot was heard.) But other forensic evidence was almost nonexistent, and the case was not given any priority when police received cold case funding.
Police were told Blackwell was targeted by the arrested subject and others from his gang because of a fight he’d gotten involved in outside a bar two months earlier.
Two days after Timothy Blackwell died, his then-15-year-old brother was shot in the leg. Tiffany McCullum said her family moved from the area soon after the shootings because they didn’t feel safe.
But she’s thought of her brother and Joliet every day for the past 27 years.
“I just would like to see if someone may come forward with answers or clues to help prosecute those responsible while they continue to walk the streets,” she said. “Joliet really needs to step up regarding the numerous unsolved gang-related deaths. Victims’ families are left with unanswered questions, broken hearts and endless tears of pain.”