Youthful offender hearing delayed for teen murder suspect
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
COLUMBIANA – A judge has rescheduled a hearing to determine if a 17-year-old Alabaster resident will be tried as an adult in the 2015 baseball bat beating death of a 19-year-old, according to Shelby County Circuit Court documents.
Eric Matthew Blackerby, who was indicted on one count of murder by a Shelby County grand jury in early November 2015, requested youthful offender status through his attorney, Barry Alvis, on Jan. 4.
On April 20, Circuit Court Judge Hewitt Conwill granted Alvis’ request to postpone a youthful offender status hearing originally scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on April 25.
In his request, Alvis asked Conwill to continue the hearing because he “has been involved on almost a fulltime basis a political race involving his wife for the past year.” Alvis said he “needs additional time to prepare for this hearing.”
Alvis’ wife, Lara, recently won an election to become a Shelby County Circuit Court judge, and will assume the role in May after Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley appointed her to fill the remainder of retired Judge Dan Reeves’ term.
Conwill granted Barry Alvis’ request, and rescheduled Blackerby’s hearing for May 31 at 8:30 a.m.
Blackerby was charged with murder after police said he allegedly killed 19-year-old William Neff during a “violent attack” with an aluminum baseball bat at an outdoor area known as “the slab” on July 29, 2015. The suspect was released from the Shelby County Jail on Nov. 17, 2015, after a relative put up property as collateral to cover Blackerby’s $500,000 bond.
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office arrested Blackerby on July 30 and originally charged him with one felony count of first-degree assault. The charge was upgraded to murder after Neff died on July 31, and Blackerby has been charged as an adult in the case.
If Blackerby is convicted as an adult, he could face up to life in prison. If he is granted youthful offender status, he will waive his right to a jury trial, and will allow Reeves to determine his guilt or innocence.
The maximum sentence for suspects granted youthful offender status is three years in prison.
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