Odyssey started with shooting death of Tennessee man

Greeneville (TN) SunApril 4, 2014 

A photo of the house on Snapps Ferry Road where a shooting took place Wednesday. Sheriff's deputies were still restricting access Thursday morning. By O.J. Early/The Greeneville Sun

O.J. EARLY — The Greeneville Sun

The four Greene County teens wanted in connection with a murder on Snapps Ferry Road have been captured in South Carolina.

One of the teens is the victim’s son.

Nearly 80 officers from seven law enforcement agencies went door-to-door in a mostly rural area of Newberry County, S.C., in search of the four teenagers, following the Wednesday night killing of Greene County man Robert J. Blanchard.

The four — Zack Blanchard, 16, Liam Lawler, 15, Daniel Richards-Birchfield, 15, and Shelby Riley, 17 — were discovered in a silver Kia minivan at an Interstate 26 rest area in the early morning hours Thursday by a South Carolina Highway Patrol officer, who ran the plates and found it was wanted in possible connection with the killing of Blanchard, 36.

Blanchard was shot to death at his house at 3905 Snapps Ferry Road. Sheriff’s deputies received a phone call about a possible shooting at the address shortly after 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Zack Blanchard, the victim’s son, is considered “a person of interest” in connection to the shooting death of his father, Sheriff Steve Burns said today.

'SORT OUT WHAT HAPPENED' Burns said that once the four Greene County teenagers were in custody, attention would shift to “trying to sort out what happened.”

The role of the other teenagers who are with Zack Blanchard is not clear. Richards-Birchfield, also known as Daniel A. Birchfield Jr., is a former South Greene High School student who was stabbed three times on Sept. 24, 2013, at the school. Richards-Birchfield recovered from three stab wounds.

He is no longer a student at the school.

Attempted murder charges against 17-year-old Jacob Mitchell, who will be tried as an adult, are pending in that case.

Two Greene County sheriff’s detectives and a member of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation arrived in Newberry County this afternoon.

MAY BE HELD IN S.C. The teenagers may be held in South Carolina initially, Burns said.

“That’s to be determined. If they were taken into custody over there, they would initially take care of charges (in South Carolina) and then release them to us,” Burns said.

After the body of Robert Blanchard was discovered in a shed in back of his house, sheriff’s deputies got a description of a silver KIA that “appeared to be missing from the residence,” Burns said. The information was entered into the National Crime Information Center.

The Greene County Sheriff’s Department was contacted this morning by the South Carolina Highway Patrol (SCHP). Burns said a trooper had spotted the van about 3:45 a.m. today in an Interstate 26 rest area in Newberry County, about midway between Greenville and Columbia, S.C.

The trooper ran the plates and found it was wanted in possible connection with the killing of Robert Blanchard, according to Sgt. Bob Beres, spokesman for the SCHP.

According to reports, once the teens spotted the patrol officer, they fled the rest area, refusing to pull over after the officer attempted a traffic stop. At some point, they crashed their car and fled on foot into a wooded area.

GUNS RECOVERED The teens were believed to have nine guns, including an AK-47 and a shotgun, Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster said.

Four guns have been recovered, including at least one in the abandoned car, along with about 200 rounds of various kinds of ammunition, Foster added.

“They wrecked, they went into a cow pasture,” Foster earlier today.

The search was concentrated near the Sumter National Forest, east of Newberry and north of Pomaria, in a community called Keitt Crossroads at S.C. 34 and U.S. 176, where the van crashed, Foster said.

Foster said the mother of Riley reported her missing. Law enforcement authorities concluded the teens have no apparent connection to Newberry County, according to interviews with Riley’s mother.

LIVED WITH FATHER

Zack Blanchard lived in the Snapps Ferry Road house with his father, Burns said, Robert Blanchard operated several local roofing and construction businesses.

C. Berkeley Bell, district attorney general of the Third Judicial District that includes Greene County, said today that all four teenagers could be prosecuted as adults.

First, prosecutors must make “the factual determination as to what the charges will be,” Bell said. The case will initially be heard in Juvenile Court in Greene County “and then we will make a determination whether to transfer one, two, three or four of them as adults,” Bell said.

“When they are brought into custody, we will be considering the transfer (to adult court) for them. That’s a definite,” Bell said. “We know what the involvement of the alleged shooter is, but we don’t know what everybody else has done.”

Some of the four “may not even be eligible for transfer. We don’t know if they fit into the categories yet,” he said. “The shooter fits into it but the others, we just don’t know yet.”

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service