Shooting victims' families support life with no parole for Drum
By Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News
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But they have different reasons.
One blames pretrial publicity. The other said he just wants to see Patrick Drum locked away for good.
Kelly said Wednesday that she had decided against seeking the death penalty for Drum, 34, of Sequim, who is charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the deaths of Jerry W. Ray, 56, of Port Angeles and Gary L. Blanton Jr., 28, of Sequim.
Drum — who is scheduled to appear in Clallam County Superior Court for a status hearing today — allegedly has told authorities he was targeting sex offenders in the June 3 killings. Both Ray and Blanton were registered offenders.
While in the Clallam County jail, Drum allegedly attacked an inmate he'd been told was a sex offender, and he is now being held without bail in a segregated cell.
He plans to defend himself during his Aug. 6 trial, and told Superior Court Judge Ken Williams that he “stood up for a belief, and the attorneys don't have the same belief that I do.”
Kelly said in a statement that she had decided against seeking the death penalty because she thinks a jury might find reasons for leniency.
To decide to seek the death penalty, her office had to determine “that there are not sufficient mitigating circumstances to justify leniency,” she said.
“Based upon the information now in my possession, I have concluded that a jury would likely find mitigating circumstances warranting leniency in the defendant's life history,” Kelly said.
Kelly said she had reached this conclusion after speaking with members of the Blanton and Ray families, and reviewing reports from law enforcement and Drum's court-appointed stand-by counsel, attorneys Ronald Ness and Karen Unger.
The widow of Gary Lee Blanton had expressed hope that Kelly would seek the death penalty after a June court hearing for Drum that she attended with the Blantons' two boys, ages 11/2 and 21/2.
On Wednesday, however, Leslie Blanton said she now thinks Kelly made the right choice.
She blames news publicity about her husband's sex offender status, bitterly saying she is convinced it will affect a jury.
“We're not going to be able to find a jury that will give him the death penalty,” she said.
“They won't focus on the fact that he was a father or a husband.”
Both she and Tiffany Austin of Port Angeles, who was Blanton's sister-in-law, have said that Gary Blanton's sex offender status stemmed from a relationship he had had with another teenager while they both were in high school.
“She was his girlfriend,” Leslie Blanton said.
Gary Blanton pleaded guilty to third-degree rape as part of a plea bargain, Austin said.
Leslie Blanton has said her husband and Drum, who was raised in Port Angeles, had been friends, adding that Drum had shared dinner at the couple's house and sold them furniture for their babies' nursery.
Jerry Ray was convicted in 2002 of first-degree rape of a child.
Paul Ray, Jerry Ray's father, said he supports Kelly's decision as long as Drum goes to prison for life.
“I'll go along with that as long as they keep him off the street,” said Paul Ray, who lived with his son in Port Angeles.
“If they don't let him walk, I'm fine with that.
“But I don't see anyone safe on the outside if they let him loose.”
Drum, a convicted felon, also is charged with first-degree burglary and unlawful possession of a firearm.
Gary Blanton and Jerry Ray were shot multiple times, authorities said.
The two men's bodies were found June 3 inside their homes in Port Angeles and Sequim.
Drum attempted to plead guilty at his June 13 arraignment, but Clallam County Superior Court Judge Ken Williams said that under state statute, Drum was not allowed to enter a guilty plea.
Drum then pleaded not guilty.
Kelly said in a June 13 interview that in cases in which the death penalty is a possibility, a defendant cannot plead guilty until the prosecution has had a chance to fully decide if “there are not sufficient mitigating circumstances to merit leniency.”
Drum was arrested in a rugged area near Blue Mountain Road at about 2:30 p.m. June 3 after a manhunt that included 65 officers from city, state, county and federal law enforcement agencies.
Authorities said Drum, who was attending Peninsula College for addiction studies, admitted to the murders and had intended to kill at least one other convicted sex offender in Jefferson County.
They said they linked a 9 mm handgun in his possession at the time of his arrest to the two killings.
Drum had done research on a computer to find out the names of convicted sex offenders, Clallam County Detective Sgt. Lyman Moores has said.
Ray and Blanton were listed, with photographs, as sex offenders on the Clallam County Sheriff's Office website.
Drum was in and out of jail and prison between July 1998 to March 2009 for charges generated in Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties that included residential burglary, second-degree burglary, tampering with a witness, drug possession, possession of stolen property and unlawful issuance of checks, according to the state Department of Corrections.
Kelly spoke against vigilantism in her statement, saying it “has no part in a civilized society and will not be tolerated by law enforcement or prosecutors in this county.
“I have been appalled by comments suggesting premeditated murder is somehow praiseworthy,” Kelly said.
“Anyone taking the law into their own hands in Clallam County will face vigorous investigation and prosecution for any crime they commit.”
Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or at email@example.com.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb and Reporter Rob Ollikainen contributed to this report.
Last modified: July 12. 2012 5:47PM