Cousins face charges in death of homeless man in '08

James BrooksJuneau Empire

KODIAK -- State prosecutors have charged cousins Bradford Blondin, 24, and Brian Blondin, 25, in connection with the 2008 death of a homeless man on Pillar Mountain.

On Monday, Bradford Blondin formally pleaded not guilty to charges that he ran over 43-year-old Justin McGriff on Pillar Mountain Road and left McGriff to die. Brian Blondin has pleaded not guilty to two felony charges that he destroyed evidence in the case.

Bradford Blondin faces three felonies; the most serious is criminally negligent homicide. The maximum penalty for that offense is 10 years.

According to police records previously reported by the Daily Mirror, McGriff died in the early morning hours of April 29, 2008.

McGriff, a dishwasher at El Chicano Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, had lived in Kodiak since 2004, when he opened a tattoo shop. That business was shut down for operating without a license, and McGriff took odd jobs afterward.

Family said McGriff was living at a campsite on Pillar Mountain Road, and, according to police, he was dropped off by a taxicab at the base of the road shortly before 1:20 a.m. Neighbors discovered his body about 6:30 a.m. that morning.

Preliminary autopsy reports indicated he died from blunt-force trauma due to a collision with a vehicle. The autopsy concluded McGriff might have survived if he had received treatment, and a medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

Police seized a vehicle and collected "biological evidence" from the vehicle. That evidence was forwarded to the State Crime Detection Laboratory in Anchorage.

That laboratory had a yearlong backlog at the start of 2009, leading to slow processing. A new lab has since opened.

In February 2011, the Kodiak Police Department announced it had completed its investigation and forwarded a recommendation for charges to the state district attorney's office in Kodiak. District Attorney Stephen Wallace was unable to comment on the lag between the end of the investigation and a grand jury review in late November.

According to notes from that review, Wallace said the investigation turned to a vehicle owned by the Blondins and seized by police two weeks after McGriff's death. Inconsistencies between testimony taken from the Blondins and surveillance camera footage contributed to the charges, the log notes state.

A tip from a neighbor who saw Brian Blondin power washing his vehicle is the basis of the evidence tampering charge, the notes read.

Anchorage attorney John Cashion is representing Brian Blondin, while the state's Office of Public Advocacy is representing Bradford Blondin.

Both attorneys declined to comment on the case, but Brian Blondin's father, Randy Blondin, loudly spoke in defense of the two men.

"Our family is not afraid of the truth," he said.

Randy Blondin said the two men had no word from police for years and were left in the dark about the investigation. While they had heard rumors, the indictment came as a surprise.

"They've both been adamant for years that they did nothing wrong," Randy Blondin said.

Randy Blondin, who was convicted in 2006 for a Fish and Game violation, maintains he was wronged by the state in that case, and he is determined to ensure the same wrongful conviction doesn't happen to his family again.

"There's no way I'm going to stand by and let them do this to my son," he said.

A hearing in the case has been scheduled for Jan. 7.

Kodiak Daily Mirror