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Witness’ story of who was in van during Russell murder shifted at least twice

on February 9, 2012

More than one year after the March 2009 murder of Marcus Russell, the woman who was with him when he was killed identified a suspect.

She said the man was in the van from which a fusillade of gunfire was unleashed, killing Russell and wounding her in the leg.

Problem is, the man, a well-known alleged south Richmond gang member who goes by the nickname ‘Scooter Doo,’ couldn’t have been in the car that day.

He was in jail.

“I learned after [interviewing the woman] that ‘Scooter Doo’ was in jail on March 10, 2009,” Richmond Police Detective Augustine Vegas testified in court on Wednesday, using the street name of Willie Mulder, 24, an alleged Easter Hill Boys gang member. “So I knew he didn’t do it.”

For the 18 months after Russell’s murder, the woman said nothing to police beyond her initial statements that she did not see who was in the van. In her first interview with Vegas, she identified ‘Scooter Doo’ and ‘Fatter,’ Blacknell’s nickname, as being in the van, before dropping ‘Scooter Doo’ from her story after seeing ‘Free Scooter Doo’ postings on social networking sites dated around the time of the shooting.

The witness, who has moved out of state for safety concerns, testified last week that Joe Blacknell III, aged 21, was the gunman who shot her and Russell from the passenger side window of a large van.

But Blacknell’s defense attorney noted on Wednesday that the witness only recanted her allegations about Mulder’s involvement after seeing the Internet postings.

Blacknell has pleaded not guilty to murder charges stemming from Russell and six counts of attempted murder and 15 other felonies related to a two day crime-spree in 2009. Public defender Diana Garrido has said that her client has alibis for his whereabouts during those crimes and is the target of a flawed prosecution.

Vegas, a veteran Richmond detective, the surviving witness on September 12 and 14, 2010. In the first meeting, according to her testimony, she said Mulder and Blacknell were both in a van that pulled alongside her and Russell, spraying them with bullets as they drove on I-580 near the Bayview exit. In the second meeting, she admitted she was mistaken in her recollections that Mulder was in the van.

In other testimony Wednesday afternoon, Oakland Police Sgt. Alexander Perez testified that on May 26, 2010 he seized dozens of letters and rap lyrics from Blacknell’s Martinez jail cell during a search in relation to the September 12, 2009 murder of Cedric Gadson in Oakland. Blacknell has not been charged in connection with Gadson’s murder.

The contents of the seized materials were not revealed before the court recessed Wednesday.

Proceedings are scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. If convicted, Blacknell faces life in prison.

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