A South Carolina man was sentenced to death on Saturday for killing the 8-year-old daughter of his ex-wife — an act of revenge, he said, against the girl’s mother.
55-year-old Ricky Lee Blackwell Sr. killed Brooke Center in 2009 while his ex-wife and grandsons stood by in horror, according to the Spartanburg Herald Journal. Angela Davis, Blackwell’s ex-wife and Center’s mother, was dating Center’s father, allegedly driving Blackwell crazy enough to get his revenge by killing the girl.
While it took only 20 minutes for the 12-person jury to find Blackwell guilty of kidnapping and murder last Tuesday, they deliberated over Blackwell’s sentence for more than five hours before concluding he should be put to death.
Blackwell’s defense team had argued that the defendent was mentally retarded, bringing in a forensic psychologist to the stand who testified such. But Seventh Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette said the psychologist was not “credible” and that her evaluation was based on "junk science." Two other psychologists found that Blackwell was not emotionally disabled.
Barnette also argued that Blackwell’s act had been premeditated. He finished killing the 8-year-old with four shots from a .357 Magnum gun.
“He wanted that man right there to pay. He wanted to send a message to him,” Barnette said of Center. “He could have easily grabbed Angie and took her. But, no, he didn’t. He took Brooke.”
The jury was also unswayed by Blackwell’s attorney, Bill McGuire with the S.C. Commission on Indigent Defense, who argued that “six seconds” of Blackwell’s life shouldn’t seal his fate.
“If he had the opportunity to step into a time machine, knowing that his death was the fuel used to bring Brooke back, he’d open and shut the door. But we can’t. We can’t bring her back. So now what do we do?” McGuire asked.
Barnette issued a written statement after the jury read its sentence, concluding the emotional trial.
“Ricky Lee Blackwell is a coward who acted out of jealously and anger. There is no other way to explain his actions. He took the life of an innocent child,” Barnette said.
“Brooke’s tragic death just didn’t affect her family. It affected the school she attended and the community she lived in. I hope people look at today’s verdict and realize crimes against children will not be tolerated.”