Letters on Eugene Blake's Behalf
Editor's note: This is the second in a three-part series that details the freedom Eugene Blake
was afforded while a convicted murderer in the West Virginia Penitentiary at Moundsville, how he
used that freedom to gain his
release from prison
and how, once released, he
Most prisoners have one goal in mind , to get out of jail.
When Eugene Blake
arrived at the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville in May 1969 on a sentence of life without mercy, he
wasted little time setting into motion a series of events that would help him reach his
goal , he
did everything right. Blake
stayed out of trouble, participated in prison educational programs, became a churchgoer and earned people's trust.He
did all the things a parole board embraces and, in the process, charmed scores of local residents and community leaders who would later lobby for his
freedom.Arthur McKenzie, warden of the state prison from 1973-77, called Blake a "model prisoner."
may have been a model prisoner, he
was anything but a model citizen.He
received a life without mercy sentence for the 1967 murder of 18-year-old Donna Jean Ball in Wayne County, W.Va., and, in another crime, Blake
received two life without mercy sentences for the 1984 murder of 13-year-old Maryann Hope Helmbright of Wheeling.
Also, a Belmont County grand jury last week indicted Blake
for the 1982 murder of Mark Withers in Bridgeport.
Both the Helmbright and Withers murders took place after Blake
received parole in 1979 for the Ball killing.According to state Department of Corrections documents, Blake
was able to convince prison officials and local community leaders that he
had been rehabilitated during his
initial stay in the state prison.
From 1969-75, Blake
, who was 24 when he
arrived at Moundsville, won the confidence of prison officials and became what is said to be the first West Virginia Penitentiary inmate serving life without mercy to be granted trusty status.
Jay Rockefeller, in September 1977 asking that Blake
? The Rev. Paul Hickey, prison chaplain and pastor at St. Francis Xavier Church
, Moundsville , "In December 1970, Dr. Solloso, MD, the institutional psychiatrist, stated that if Eugene
has ever been schizophrenic, it was in total remission.While Eugene
was undergoing examination at Weston State Hospital
escaped and, while on escape, he
was allegedly guilty of stealing a vehicle and other thefts.Such activity is quite understandable in view of the sentence he
was facing and his
age at the time.In the future, if Eugene
were granted a reduction and eventually paroled, appropriate housing and employment would be guaranteed by me."
? The Most Rev. James E. Michaels, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston
, "It is my hope that Your Excellency would agree with the recommendation of Father Hickey, that is that executive clemency in the form of a reduction of Mr. Blake's
sentence from life without mercy to life with mercy would be an appropriate response to the efforts of this unfortunate young man."
? Brother Richard G. Mullen, novice, Order of Saint Augustinian Fathers, New Hamburg, N.Y. , "Governor, I know Gene Blake
.I have faith in him.I appeal to you, the chief executive of the state, holding a position of great trust and responsibility to the people you serve, to grant an executive clemency to Gene
.Please give Gene
a chance.Mercy is a virtue and not a weakness."? Brother Mark McAlteer, the Passionist Monastery, Jamaica, N.Y. , "I came to know Gene well during the summer of 1974 when I worked at the prison as chaplain.
has made a mistake in life.Yes, a tragic one which put him in prison
.However, instead of punishing Gene
any longer, why not forgive and release him."
...? James W. Carty Jr., professor, chairman, Department of Communications, Bethany College , "I would like to recommend that you seriously consider extending executive clemency to Eugene Blake at the prison in Moundsville.
? William E. Cornforth, academic instructor, Education Department, West Virginia Penitentiary , Blake
"has proven in countless situations that he is not a dangerous individual despite the circumstances of his murder conviction years ago.
? William and Christine Sampson, Wheeling
, "Since meeting Gene
a year ago while participating in a production at the Towngate Theatre, Wheeling
, we came to know Gene
as a warm, intelligent man with an unmeasurable motivation to become a productive member of society.
We feel that the penal system has met its objectives in the rehabilitation of Gene
through encouraging the development of unquestionable ideals and a knowledge of self worth."
? James and Diana Halavonich, Wheeling
, "Through Donna Marazita, we met Eugene Blake
But, I am happy to have met and talked with Eugene
On behalf of Mr. Blake
and Miss Marazita, I urge you to consider either clemency or commutation of his sentence."
The Intelligencer this week contacted several of those who wrote letters in support of Blake
.The only person to comment was McKenzie, who said, "I was tickled to death when the governor commuted Blake's
As for Blake
's murder conviction in the Helmbright case and the pending charges in Ohio for the Withers murder, McKenzie said Blake deserves to be punished for his crimes.
"I hope they fry" him, McKenzie said of Blake
It appears the one person most responsible for getting Blake
released was Blake
In his petition for clemency sent to Moore on Oct. 29, 1976, Blake
submitted the support letters as leverage for having his sentence commuted.
Many letters will divulge knowledge essential to this decision and are written by persons who are in a position to have observed Mr. Blake; that many are written by prison
officials themselves who are professionals in rehabilitation and many of whom have spent almost 10 years observing Eugene Blake
In another part of the petition, Blake
wrote, "your petitioner further represents that he
has been ,A Model Prisoner' at the West Virginia Penitentiary, with a completely unblemished record during incarceration and has as an end result attained the respect and trust of the prison
administration.Evidence of this can be seen by the fact that Warden Arthur McKenzie has recently recommended Mr. Blake in rather glowing terms for the executive clemency in a Special Report dated June 7, 1976."
The last article you EVER write on this animal should be titled: Blake
, Under A Headstone.
06-13-08 7:55 AM»Report AbuseLooks like the viticms didn't really matter in this case Mr. Blake
kiss the right you know what as they say that get you no where but in this case it did but he
back where he
belong and hope he
get what he
deserves this time.
When I was a CO at WVP, Blake
was a slimey POS.He
had that air of sneekiness about him.You could just tell his
mind was always up to something.I hope Ohio fries him!!
06-13-08 6:20 AM»Report AbuseSounds like Blake would make a great candidate for Governor at the next election!