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The referee was eliminated as a suspect, in part, because his encounters had been with young boys. Blair created a chronological outline of each attack, complete with a summary statement. Then one day I received a letter from him, asking for an update on his appeal. I had spent years trying to get an interview with Michael Blair, sentenced to die for the murder of Ashley Estell.
I started feeling a little ill. Blair refused a plea bargain offering him life in prison instead of a possible death penalty. I remember it was miserably hot the day Ashley disappeared in My family, like many in Plano, was hosting a cookout, trying to ignore the heat and celebrate the long Labor Day weekend. Plano police were desperate for le. He said he had been sexually abused as and inflicted the same on a young female relative as they were growing up.
But he had rejected me once before. Now, what else do you want to talk about? He was publicly branded -killer, but the case against him remained weak. In letters to me from death row, Michael Blair confessed to scores of sex crimes against children. I stopped reading and resealed the envelope, too nauseated to continue. The document looked similar to those included in the trial notes, but I was unable to determine its authenticity.
Some of the children in his snapshots were the same age as my own elementary-aged kids. What is it you want to know? Authorities released the referee without collecting any DNA samples. Still sickened by the content, I stuffed each one, unopened, in my desk drawer. The year-old man sitting on the other side of the glass date Plano TX girl nothing like the wild-haired defendant plastered on television. I have some of their pictures in my wallet. Authorities conducted a traffic stop, struck up a conversation with him and then asked to look inside his vehicle.
But my visit with Michael Blair two years ago changed my life. He promised an interview in exchange for answers. The media reported that Blair—a disheveled, year-old carpet cleaner—had served only 18 months of a year sentence for a child molestation conviction. After 10 hours of interrogation, Plano police had no admission of guilt and were unable to produce any witnesses who could place Blair at the scene with the girl.
On that particular night, there was a young girl staying there too….
A fourth encounter with a young boy came inwhile Blair was on parole. Days later, I received a manila envelope stuffed with copies of old letters Blair had written to friends, his attorney, clergy, and others. In my years as a journalist, I have interviewed murderers, rapists, and sexual predators. And what can Michael Blair teach us about protecting our own children from predators like him?
Want to see them? I felt angry when I heard the next day that her half-nude body had been found lying alongside an isolated country road six miles from the soccer field.
Blair, by his own s, is a serial child molester. Or rather, Blair stumbled onto them.
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The hallway leading to the Death Row Wing was silent except for the occasional clang of a metal door and the squeak of my sneakers on the heavily waxed floor. There, detectives stumbled onto Blair. For me, the line between concerned citizen and reporter blurred.
The most chilling was detailed in a letter dated Feb. His letters to me—in all, more than s—detail these crimes.
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For a moment, I thought there had been some sort of mistake. With no alibi and a prior conviction for molesting an year-old girl, Blair was the perfect suspect. Watching the news that evening, I learned that Ashley had been kidnapped from a crowded Plano soccer field with her parents sitting only a short distance away.
Instead, Blair spilled his guts about his hidden crimes and twisted sexual fantasies about children. He stared for a moment before speaking again. I reminded him I was there to interview him. I had kissed the girl that was then sleeping on the couch, but more. It would be several weeks before I could bring myself to open the manila envelope again. These other crimes involved more than a dozen children, both boys and girls.
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I was fearful of allowing my children out of my sight until the murderer was caught. But another potential suspect—a soccer referee with pending charges for child molestation—was working at the soccer field that day.
At the time of my visit to death row, I was working as a reporter for the McKinney Courier-Gazette. In another letter, Blair described crime after crime in detail, admitting to attacks against children in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and Texas. As he spoke, a trail of ants navigated past my notepad and entered a tiny gap in the cement wall between us; they moved back and forth from freedom to death row.
I wrote back and said thanks for the letter and the interview. Sorrow was intermingled with panic. I sat in an interview booth where Blair was supposedly waiting.
Trying not to look at him, I kept scribbling. He left town without picking up his paycheck. Not knowing exactly how to respond to the growing mountain of mail, I sought the input of some of my police sources.
I felt a wave of uneasiness, and my hands, carrying only a notebook and a pen, suddenly grew wet with perspiration. Haltingly, Blair told me he came from a broken home. Reluctantly and with growing uneasiness, I responded to the letters with questions. As the conversation progressed, Blair relaxed somewhat and began to speak more freely. The days that followed were tense. Very briefly, as promised during our interview, I have enclosed some copies for you regarding my prior offenses and of my continued endeavor to deal openly with such past incidents…I have no problem accepting responsibility for what I have done during my life, having first began trying during the summer of ….
They said that the information might clear up some outstanding criminal cases so long as the events were true and not fabricated and that the best thing to do was to convince him to keep writing. After an exhaustive six-day search for witnesses, officers returned to the country road to re-examine the murder scene for clues.
In the years that followed, Blair rebuffed press inquiries about his conviction and pending execution. With trembling hands, I started flipping through the s. I wondered what it was like to live on the other side of that glass with nothing but memories and nightmares for company.
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He does not sugarcoat his past and freely admits that his actions have devastated the lives of more than a dozen children. A native of Thailand, he never knew his father, and his mother suffered a mental breakdown shortly after he was sent to death row. I sexually abused them. My chest tightened with fear, perhaps a reaction triggered by the stale, musty air.
But was the wrong man sentenced to die for the murder of Ashley Estell? His head was shaved and he was a good 25 to 30 pounds heavier than the Blair I remembered from the nightly news. Hilburn, Hi out there. He identified some as family members.
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One was a transcript of a recorded phone conversation between a Plano detective and Blair just before he was arrested. That seemed to cause him a lot of distress. Suspicions against Blair ballooned after police learned he was a paroled sex offender. Nobody wants to know about me anymore.
He waited for a reaction, but I just sat there dumbfounded, trying to think of something professional to say. Blair fished a small wallet out of his coveralls and removed several photos of young girls and boys.
Did this creep really kill ashley estell?
I looked up from my notepad and into his eyes. I came here to find out more about you. I had also fondled her while watching adult movies on TV. In that letter, Blair acknowledged more molestations and his criminal culpability.
After six hours of travel, the thought of leaving the Charles T. Tate Unit in Livingston without interviewing Blair made my stomach knot. I phoned the prison to arrange a visit, but Blair abruptly refused on the advice of his appellate attorney.
Leave your address with the guard.