Kansas City man faces life in prison for Blondis murder

Mother of slain MU
student says that her son received justice.
Sunday, November 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:28 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A jury Friday morning convicted Kansas City resident Taron Crawford of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the 2003 death of MU student Charles Blondis.

Crawford, 21, showed little response as the jury foreperson reported the verdict and each of the six men and six women on the jury confirmed the decision.

The jury deliberated for about an hour and 20 minutes before returning at 11:35 a.m. with its verdict.

Judge Gene Hamilton ordered a pre-sentencing investigation and will deliver a sentence on Dec. 20.

Second-degree murder carries a sentence of 10-30 years to life in prison; armed criminal action carries a sentence of three years to life.

Assistant Prosecutor Dan Knight said he is considering asking for the maximum punishment on both counts, due to Crawford’s prior criminal record.

“He’s been given many chances to reform himself,” Knight said.

Roderick Smith, Crawford’s defense attorney, declined to offer any specific comment after the trial, but said an appeal was a possibility.

Smith has 25 days to file a motion for a new trial.

Blondis, a sophomore classics major at MU, was shot during a party at a residence on Riva Ridge Court in November 2003. A fight broke out during the party, and prosecution witnesses at the trial said Crawford shot Blondis three times.

Knight said the two eyewitnesses — Sam Hileman, a friend of Blondis who was at the party, and Peter Lassiter, an MU law student who was awakened by the sound of the fighting — were the strongest points of his case.

In his closing argument, Smith said Crawford was firing the gun into the air in order to try and quell the brawl. He also said any shots might have been fired in self-defense due to the fight.

But Blondis’ mother, Alba Blondis of Flossmoore, Ill., did not accept that argument.

“As I listened to (the defense argument), I found it very difficult to consider as realistic,” she said. “One thing that struck me was that my son was shot in the chest by a gun fired in the air.”

Alba Blondis said she was relieved by the conviction but still misses her son.

“Charles received some justice,” she said. “But that doesn’t bring Charles back. The life that was lost was the life of a young man who loved people and who would have made a difference in the world.”

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