MU student killed in party brawl

A 20-year-old Kansas City, Kan., man has
been charged with second-degree murder.
Monday, November 17, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:26 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

By Sunday afternoon, beer cans and broken bottles were the only

remnants of a late-night college party that turned tragic. A 20-year-old MU student was shot to death outside a duplex on Riva Ridge Court about 3:30 a.m. Sunday after a fight broke out among party guests, said Columbia police Capt. Mike Martin.

Charles Blondis, a sophomore classics major at MU, was shot at least once in the upper torso and was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said they found three shell casings and have not yet determined whether Blondis was hit by more than one shot.

Taron Crawford, 20, of Kansas City, Kan., implicated himself in the


shooting after being tracked down by police, Martin said. He has been charged with second-degree murder. Crawford was in Columbia visiting his girlfriend and attended the party because his friend knew the hosts, Martin said.

After the shooting, Crawford and his friend drove away in Crawford’s Chevrolet Corsica, police said. The Corsica hit a parked red car, which left a paint mark on the Corsica, police said.

Police later found Crawford inside his girlfriend’s Columbia apartment. Crawford’s car was parked outside. Police said they recovered the handgun used in the shooting near the home of Crawford’s girlfriend.

Police were called to the Riva Ridge Court residence at 3:37 a.m. by a neighbor who was awakened by the sound of fighting. While police were on their way, the same neighbor called again, saying that shots had been fired.

The fight broke out when two male partygoers got into an altercation over how one of them was treating a woman at the party, Martin said. Martin said the argument turned violent after the individuals decided on “taking it outside.”

A crowd from the party gathered to watch the melee, witnesses said.

“About half the guys at the party left the house,” said Terrence Logan, an MU junior who witnessed the fight. “And at first, we tried to break it up.”

What happened next transformed a drunken fight into Columbia’s second homicide in three days.

Police said Crawford pulled his weapon and fired three times in Blondis’ direction. Crawford was fleeing as Blondis fell to the ground, Martin said.

Blondis and Crawford were not directly involved in the fight, police said. Blondis was part of the large group that had gathered to watch the fight, while Crawford interjected himself into the fight for an unknown reason, police said.

Police do not know whether Blondis was the intended target. Crawford did not know any of the combatants in the fight, and police said they do not know of any motive for the shooting.

Blondis’ friends and family said Blondis was a happy young man with a love for all things musical. He was the lead actor in the play “The Music Man” and a drummer in a band in high school.

Blondis also loved Italy, where he traveled with his mother after his high school graduation. He planned to return to Italy to study abroad during his junior year, his mother, Alba Blondis, said.

“He could talk to anyone and put just about anyone at ease,” Alba Blondis said. “He was just a very friendly, upbeat and outgoing kind of person.”

His mother recalled the time when she and her husband had to wait to see their son on parents’ weekend because he was busy participating in a fund-raiser sponsored by Lambda Chi Alpha, of which he was a former member.

“He had a large circle of friends, and they always did a lot together,” his mother said.

Blondis came to MU from Flossmoor, Ill., but lived just north of Columbia in Harrisburg from age 2 to 6. He followed his mother, an MU alumna, in choosing to attend school in Columbia.

The shooting followed the death Friday of an 86-year-old Columbia man. His wife, 83, was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting.

“It’s very unusual to have two homicides in a three-day span,” Martin said. “We have had various instances over the months where shots have been fired, and we’ve been lucky they didn’t hit anybody.”

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