The four Greene County teenagers taken into custody Thursday in South Carolina after the killing of Robert J. Blanchard at his Snapps Ferry Road home may be extradited to Tennessee by early next week, Third Judicial District Attorney General C. Berkeley Bell said Friday.
Formal extradition warrants for all four have been prepared by local law enforcement officials, but details concerning how and when the extradition will work remain uncertain.
The four teens include the victim’s son, 16-year-old Zack Blanchard, who is considered a suspect in the shooting death of his father, Sheriff Steve Burns said.
The others are Liam Lawlor, 15, Daniel Richards-Birchfield, 15, and Shelby Riley, 17.
The four teens were apprehended Thursday in Newberry County, S.C., following a day-long manhunt. The Kia van they were driving, taken from the Blanchard property, was disabled Thursday morning by law enforcement, prompting the teens to run into a nearby wooded area of Newberry County.
Investigators are trying to determine the involvement of each in the death of Robert Blanchard and what charges will be appropriate, Bell said.
In order to extradite the four teens from South Carolina, warrants have to be prepared charging them “as if they were adults,” Bell said.
“When they’re brought back over here, we have to revert to treating them as juveniles,” Bell said.
“We’ll file juvenile petitions alleging delinquent acts and then we will initiate transfer proceedings asking the Juvenile Court to treat them as an adult, depending on their participation,” Bell said.
Criminal extradition warrants were prepared Friday charging Zack Blanchard with first-degree murder and the other teens with accessory after the fact and theft over $1,000, Bell said.
“The investigation is continuing as to exactly what their involvement is,” Bell said. “There are many witnesses at this point that have to be interviewed. We are anticipating that the charges on the other three will be increased at some point.”
Early Friday evening, Sheriff Burns issued a news release stating that charges had been placed against the four teenagers. Burns’ statement included the following:
“Greene County Sheriff’s Department Detectives have been working with Assistant District Attorney Cecil Mills most of the day in preparing the charges against these individuals.
“A total of seven felony charges have been filed in this case.
“The charges are as follows: “1. Zachary Thomas Blanchard has been charged with one count of first degree murder; “2. Daniel Allen Richards-Birchfield Jr. has been charged with one count of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder and one count of theft (through criminal responsibility) over $1,000.00 and less than $10,000.00; “3. Liam Michael Lawlor has been charged with one count of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder and one count of theft (through criminal responsibility) over $1,000.00 and less than $10,000.00; “4. Shelby Lynn Riley has been charged with one count of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder and one count of theft (through criminal responsibility) over $1,000.00 and less than $10,000.00...
“No court dates or return dates have been set as of yet.”
How the alleged actions of the defendants in South Carolina might affect the timing of the Tennessee extradition process is not clear, Attorney General Bell said.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “It’s my impression that as soon as the warrants get over there, they will be kick-started (and) Monday will be the first hearing date on those warrants for extradition,” Bell said.
“We are not anticipating any difficulty in getting them back over here.”
The four teens were being held Friday at a juvenile detention facility in Columbia, S.C.
Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster said Friday the teens will be charged in South Carolina with possession of a stolen automobile and possession of stolen firearms.
Riley, the driver of the van, will face an additional charge of failure to stop for a law enforcement officer, Foster said.
The charges will be filed through the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice and Family Court because of the defendants’ age, Foster said.
The process of filing documents, getting the defendants to a detention hearing in Newberry County Juvenile Court, and coordinating with Tennessee law enforcement officials might take time, Foster said.
“It’s not a set time frame. It’s because of so many cogs in this particular wheel,” Foster said. “We are all working together.”
The motive for the shooting death of Robert Blanchard death is not known.
In addition, the whereabouts of each teen in the hours leading up to the death of Blanchard on Wednesday night is currently under investigation.
Investigators are looking into “the events leading up to the robbery and the murder,” Bell said.
Foster said the teens were carrying numerous weapons in the Kia van taken from the Blanchard property.
Weapons recovered after they fled on foot include an AK-47 assault weapon, long guns, a shotgun, and about 200 rounds of ammunition, Foster said.
The guns are believed to have been taken from the house of Robert Blanchard, Burns said Thursday. After the van ran over stop sticks placed in the road by a Newberry County sheriff’s deputy, each of the teens fled into the woods carrying a handgun, Foster said.
One of the pistols was recovered after their capture, Foster said.
“We don’t know where the other three are,” he said Friday morning.