KILLER WOOED WOMEN DESPITE VIOLENT STREAK
Man accused of killing wife, kids dies after suicide attempt
By Kristina Davis & Dana Littlefield • U-T
Originally published August 24, 2012 at 12:01 a.m., updated August 23, 2012 at 9:34 p.m.
Clarence Blunt has been described as a murderer, abuser, misogynist and sociopath.
Yet as much as the San Diego native intersected the justice system over the years, he repeatedly managed to rebuild his life, rebounding with work and women.
The violent circumstances that resulted in his death Thursday at age 55 have put a renewed focus on a past filled with psychological struggles and relationship turmoil.
Blunt nearly got away with his first murder, a hatchet attack on a gas station attendant in 1973. And on Sunday, he is suspected of killing his wife and two young children before trying to commit suicide, wounds that he succumbed to days later.
In the decades between, Blunt fathered three other children, served numerous stints in prison and worked as a licensed security guard. National City police say he was also a person of interest in the slayings of two women and a baby.
Modern DNA technology has all but cleared Blunt as the main perpetrator in at least one of those homicides, police said, and the level of his involvement may never be known.
Court records hint at a painful childhood of abuse, incest and neglect — trauma that psychologists say manifested into mental illness and a dissociative disorder, with an alternate personality he called “Ricky.”
He lived in fear of his stepfather, who was eventually killed by his mother. She served a sentence for voluntary manslaughter, court records show.
He was 17 when he took an ax to the gas station attendant, angry he wasn’t being serviced fast enough, according to court records. But another man was initially arrested and wrongly convicted in the case.
Sometime after the killing, Blunt visited a Fashion Valley department store where he met a Jehovah’s Witness minister. The man spoke to Blunt about his religion, which apparently appealed to the teen.
Eventually, Blunt confessed to the killing and agreed to turn himself in.
The case was assigned to criminal defense attorney John Einhorn, now a veteran Superior Court judge who has presided over numerous high-profile cases, many of them murders.
“He was a big kid, polite and scared,” Einhorn recalled Thursday of his former client. “He was at that time going by Ricky.”
Court records show that even at 18, Blunt was an imposing figure at 6 feet 5 inches tall and 300 pounds.
Einhorn described him as cooperative but mentally slow.
“He had trouble expressing himself, and he had trouble understanding the criminal justice system,” he said.
Blunt faced up to life in prison; he served nine years.
In 1985, Blunt forced his way into a neighbor’s house after asking a female resident for ice cubes. When the woman’s husband arrived, he fought with Blunt and held him in a bedroom until police arrived. Blunt was charged with burglary, forcible oral copulation and unlawfully touching an intimate part of another person.
According to court records, he pleaded guilty to the burglary charge and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was released in 1988.
Blunt got in trouble with the law again in 1996, when he took a pair of gloves and a lock from a Home Depot store and was charged later with petty theft. He was sentenced to 25 years to life under the state’s three-strikes law, but an appeals court sent the case back to the lower court, saying it could have granted probation.
Court documents say he was suffering from a “dissociative episode” when he entered the Home Depot. The records show that Blunt created another personality to deal with trauma suffered in childhood.
“He feels that ‘something shuts off and someone (he called him Ricky) comes in and saves it,’” the documents say. “He then views his own actions as though someone else were performing them. It is during these times of some triggering traumatic events that Mr. Blunt (has) been at odds with the legal system.”
Family members wrote letters to the court on Blunt’s behalf, speaking of his ongoing need for psychological counseling.
Blunt’s former longtime companion, who asked that her name not be published, said he was “nice” and “pleasant” when they first met in the 1980s. Then signs of his mental illness began to emerge.
“He had a violent streak when we were together,” the mother of two of his children said in an interview Thursday.
He worked various small jobs over the years, including at a bakery, a Burger King and as a stock boy.
Blunt’s name came up in connection with two homicide investigations, but police could not find physical evidence linking him to the crimes.
The first, in 1974, involved an attack on Christie Bryant, a Marine who was working the graveyard shift at a 7-Eleven in National City. The assailant stabbed her more than 30 times in a back room.
Then in 1989, while Blunt was on parole, the bodies of his girlfriend and her 2-month-old son were discovered in her National City apartment. Gertrude Richardson was found stabbed to death in the living room, and the baby was found in a bedroom, uninjured but dead from starvation and dehydration.
Blunt’s name came up immediately in the investigation and he was questioned, but police again couldn’t tie him physically to the crime.
DNA evidence in both unsolved cases has since been submitted to a national database, and Blunt’s DNA did not come back as a conclusive match, said National City police Lt. Jose Tellez.
Retired Capt. Craig Short, who interrogated him back then, described Blunt as “slippery” and “sociopathic.”
“The guy was a misogynist. He really hated women,” Short said in an interview this week.
Short’s take on Blunt: “He acted stupid, but I’m not sure that he was.” A psychologist who treated him called him intelligent and capable.
Records show Blunt obtained his security guard license in 2004.
State officials said Blunt’s murder conviction in the hatchet killing did not come up during their background check because the case was so old and fingerprint records were kept differently back then. The only blip on his record was the shoplifting arrest.
It was while working security at a Linda Vista Vietnamese market that Blunt met his last wife, Lilly Nguyen. He charmed her for a few months, and they eloped. But Lilly’s sister said it wasn’t long before he turned controlling and violent.
She filed for divorce on Aug. 3, and fled to a shelter and then her sister’s house with their 3-year-old daughter, Lianna, and 7-month-old son, Richard.
Blunt coaxed his wife back to meet with a group from Jehovah’s Witnesses to reconcile the marriage Saturday, and Lilly went, against her sister’s warnings. She never saw her again.
The sister checked on the home Sunday and found Blunt hunched over and injured. Police who responded found the bodies of Lilly and the two children.
Investigators have not released how the three were killed, or Blunt’s injuries, pending autopsy results. A memorial service for Lilly and her children will be held today.
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