‘Slab’ murder suspect pleads not guilty
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
COLUMBIANA – A 17-year-old suspect who has been charged with allegedly beating a 19-year-old to death with a baseball bat in 2015 has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge pending against him, according to Shelby County Circuit Court records.
Eric Matthew Blackerby, who lists an address on Shelby County 17 in Alabaster, entered the not guilty plea on Jan. 5. As of Jan. 11, he did not have a future court date listed in Circuit Court.
Blackerby’s plea came a few weeks after Circuit Court Judge Hewitt “Sonny” Conwill denied the suspect’s request for youthful offender status in the case.
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.
Blackerby was indicted on the murder charge by a Shelby County grand jury in early November 2015.
Because he will be tried as an adult, Blackerby could face up to life in prison if convicted. If he had received youthful offender status, his maximum sentence would have been three years in prison.
In his Dec. 29, 2016, order, Conwill said he denied Blackerby’s youthful offender status because Blackerby allegedly “used a massive amount of force in an attack against a helpless victim.”
During the youthful offender status hearing in early December, witnesses testified Eric Blackerby was present at “the slab” on July 29, 2015, when his older brother, Andrew, got into a fight with Neff.
Witnesses testified Andrew Blackerby was on top of Neff hitting him when “Eric Blackerby approached and then hit Neff in the head with a baseball bat with a great amount of force” multiple times.