An Anchorage Superior Court jury convicted 37-year-old Yoder Blalock on Thursday of second-degree murder, disagreeing with his claim that he attacked his victim with a bayonet in self-defense.
State prosecutors said Blalock intended to kill Nathan “Nate” Tanape, whom he pepper-sprayed before striking multiple times with a short sword shortly after he injected methamphetamine on a night in October 2011.
Blalock’s sentencing was set for Jan. 9.
The defense argued Blalock feared for his life and resorted to deadly force only after Tanape refused to back down. During closing arguments, the defense focused on one of the state’s key witnesses, attempting to cast doubt on his credibility.
However, jurors sided with the state and found self-defense was unlikely in the deadly fight that left Tanape bloodied from multiple blows, which included a stab wound between his ribs that ultimately killed him.
Blalock also faced a DUI charge for allegedly injecting meth while driving his truck before the murder. Judge Jack Smith found the state failed to sufficiently prove that charge and dismissed it when prosecutors finished presenting their case, said assistant district attorney Rob Henderson.
Officers found Tanape inside an apartment on East Third Avenue, bleeding from stab wounds and gashes to his head, in the early morning hours of Sunday on Halloween weekend. According to the charges against Blalock, he attacked Tanape after being told to leave the area.
Instead of leaving, he retrieved pepper spray and the bayonet from his truck. He sprayed Tanape in the face before he “cut and slashed and stabbed” with the blade, said Assistant District Attorney Christina Sherman.
On Tuesday, Sherman relied on Blalock’s trial testimony to discredit his self-defense assertion. She said Blalock testified that he knew how to fight, having knowledge of jiujitsu. And he admitted, she said, to using methamphetamine four times a month.
“He admitted that meth affects thinking but claimed the drug made him calm, like he wanted to have a hot cup of cocoa,” Sherman said.
Sherman said the state disproved self-defense through several arguments. She said Blalock “provoked the conflict,” he was the initial aggressor, and he used excessive force, among other arguments.
She detailed for the jury how Blalock didn’t retreat when he could have with “complete personal safety.” The state’s “castle doctrine” requires a person flee an altercation “if the person knows that, with complete personal safety and with complete safety as to others being defended, the person can avoid the necessity of using deadly force by leaving the area of the encounter.”
Blalock kept his gaze forward as court officers escorted him out of the courtroom after the verdict was read.
Outside the courtroom, Tanape’s family said the jury’s decision will bring a small bit of justice to their son, brother and uncle.
“Nothing will bring my son back,” said Jean Huntsman, Tanape’s mother. “I don’t hate (Blalock). But I hate the crime he committed. He ended my son’s life.”
Tanape’s niece, Yvonne Tanape, said her uncle took care of their family. He called to check in on her at least once a month, she said.
“He had a big heart and was loyal to his friends,” said Tanape’s sister, Alma Callis.