VAN NUYS (CNS) - A television producer accused of killing her disabled sister by putting her in a closed Studio City garage with a lit barbecue grill in 2015 was ordered today to stand trial.
At the end of a roughly five-day preliminary hearing, Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino ruled there was enough evidence for Jill Blackstone to proceed to trial on a murder charge stemming from the March 14, 2015, killing of 49-year-old Wendy Blackstone, who was deaf and partially blind. Blackstone is also charged with three counts of animal cruelty involving three dogs that were left in the garage.
The judge rejected defense attorney Daniel G. Davis' contention that the prosecution had presented insufficient evidence against his 56-year-old client, who has worked on programs such as “The Jerry Springer Show,” “Divorce Court,” “The Tony Danza Show” and “Family Court with Judge Penny.”
Brandolino noted that a reasonable inference could be drawn from the evidence that Jill Blackstone had planned what was to be a murder-suicide, with the suicide going “awry,” adding that the nature of notes and signs left at the scene “clearly support such an inference.”
A note allegedly written by Jill Blackstone was found near her dead sister's hand, Los Angeles Police Detective Timo Illig testified last week.
The note -- which was purportedly signed by Jill Blackstone and was partially damaged -- expresses her wish that her body be cremated along with her sister's wish that she wanted to be cremated as well.
Police also found notes taped with black duct tape to a black trash can, including one that warned to “enter carefully” and advised that “both parties have do not resuscitate orders” and another that suggested who should be called about the dogs, the detective testified. A Post-It note left along with the note indicated the hair color of each of the two women.
Prosecutors contend Jill Blackstone carried out the crime because she had grown weary of caring for her disabled sibling. She had been arrested shortly after her sister died on March 14, 2015, inside a garage in the 12000 block of Landale Street, but she was released when prosecutors declined to file charges.
She was arrested again in April of last year and charged with murder, and has remained jailed in lieu of just over $2 million bail since then.
Authorities said last year they believed Blackstone drugged her sister and put her in the garage with the lit barbecue grill, along with the three dogs, in an effort to make her death look like an accident or suicide.
According to the coroner's office, Wendy Blackstone died from inhalation of combustion and alprazolam, a sedative.
One of the three dogs that had been inside the garage was found dead near Wendy Blackstone's head. Two other dogs who had been trapped inside the garage ran outside when the garage was opened, according to the District Attorney's Office, although police said last year that two dogs died in the fire.
Blackstone's attorney has questioned why the prosecution waited three years to file the case, saying outside court that some evidence had either been lost or destroyed in the intervening years. The defense lawyer said he intends to file a motion asking another judge to dismiss the case based upon the evidence presented during the preliminary hearing.
She is due back in a Van Nuys courtroom for arraignment Feb. 13.
If convicted as charged, Blackstone faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.