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Judge refuses to dismiss case against man charged in Tacoma worker killing

Post by Adam Lynn / The News Tribune on Sep. 24, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
September 24, 2010 5:00 pm

The lawyer for a man accused of first-degree murder in the death of a Tacoma city worker argued today the charges against his client should be dismissed.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Linda Lee declined.

Michael Schwartz, who represents Manuel A. Castillo, said prosecutors have no evidence suggesting his client had anything to do with the death of Lisa Marie Melancon.

Melancon, 40, died after being struck in the head by a bullet fired from a car fleeing a fistfight in front of her Tacoma home July 22. She had gone to her front porch to call in her husband, who’d gone outside to help break up the fight, when she was hit. She worked in the city’s code enforcement division.

Castillo, who is charged as an accomplice, was involved in the fistfight but merely jumped into the back seat of the fleeing car when the fight ended, Schwartz told Lee during an afternoon hearing.

Prosecutors have no evidence Castillo, 19, knew one of the other men in the car had a gun or that he planned to use it, Schwartz said.

Authorities believe Olujimi Blakeney, 25, fired the fatal shot. Blakeney, also charged with first-degree murder and drive-by shooting, remains at large. Also charged in the case is Herman Jackson, 28. Prosecutors believe he was behind the wheel.

Jackson and Castillo have pleaded not guilty.

“Mr. Castillo got nothing more than a ride from these people,” Schwartz said.

Deputy prosecutor Phil Sorensen said there is evidence Castillo asked Blakeney and Jackson to accompany him to Melancon’s street that night.

A jury could draw “reasonable inferences” that Castillo knew Blakeney was armed, Sorensen said. He asked Lee to let the case go forward.

The judge sided with Sorensen, saying a jury might find that Castillo “set into motion a chain of events that resulted in the death of a person.”

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