Youthful offender hearing reset for teen murder suspect
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
COLUMBIANA – A hearing to determine if an Alabaster teen who has been charged with the 2015 beating death of a 19-year-old victim will receive youthful offender status has been moved to December after a scheduling conflict arose with a mental health doctor who was set to testify in the hearing.
The youthful offender status conference for 17-year-old Alabaster resident Eric Matthew Blackerby originally was scheduled for Oct. 21 at 9 a.m., but has been rescheduled to 9 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 9.
The rescheduling came at the request of Blackerby’s attorney, Barry Alvis, who originally had clinical neuropsychologist Dr. John Goff set to testify during the Oct. 21 hearing. Goff recently performed a mental health evaluation on Blackerby, and “plans to testify regarding the maturity of a person the age of Mr. Blackerby and the effects of that immaturity as related to the potential punishment as an adult,” according to court documents.
However, Goff had two previous engagements to testify in court on Oct. 21, and would have been unable to attend Blackerby’s youthful offender status hearing, according to court documents.
“It is imperative that Dr. Goff be available for testimony in this case, as it has direct relevance as to the issues on whether or not youthful offender status should be granted,” read Alvis’ rescheduling request.
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 on Jan. 4.
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 a judge to determine his guilt or innocence.
Court records for suspects granted youthful offender status are sealed, and are no longer public record. Suspects adjudicated as youthful offenders are not considered convicted felons, and have none of their rights or privileges forfeited, according to court documents.
The maximum sentence for suspects granted youthful offender status is three years in prison.