Blackerby gets life in prison for baseball bat murder

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

COLUMBIANA – An 18-year-old Maylene man will spend the rest of his life in prison after he was sentenced on Sept. 26 for killing a 19-year-old victim with a baseball bat during a 2015 incident at an outdoor area known as “the slab” in western Shelby County.

Blackerby

Blackerby’s sentencing by Circuit Court Judge Bill Bostick came a little more than a month after a jury found Blackerby guilty of the murder. Blackerby will be eligible for parole.

Blackerby, who lists an address on Shelby County 17 in Alabaster, was charged with the murder after police said he killed 19-year-old William Neff during a “violent attack” with an aluminum baseball bat at “the slab” on July 29, 2015. Before the trial, the suspect had been out of jail since Nov. 17, 2015, when a relative put up property as collateral to cover Blackerby’s $500,000 bond.

During a 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 previously 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.”

Blackerby was indicted on the murder charge by a Shelby County grand jury in early November 2015.

“I don’t buy the argument that Mr. Blackerby is a product of the environment he grew up in. The environment he grew up in is one of the best in the southeast and even the nation,” Bostick said before sentencing Blackerby. “Nobody is forced by the hardships of life to live in Shelby County.

“You are the person parents fear most when they let their kids stay out past midnight,” Bostick added. “You had a lot of options available to you that night. You chose to take a helpless individual and take a baseball bat to the back of his head. Innocent people don’t deserve that treatment, Mr. Blackerby.”

Before he was sentenced, Blackerby, who was wearing an orange Shelby County Jail jumpsuit, handcuffs and ankle shackles, apologized to Neff’s family members who attended the hearing.

“I’m very sorry for the loss. I hope the best for the family, and I’m very sorry,” Blackerby said.

During the sentencing hearing, assistant district attorneys Roger Hepburn and Daniel McBrayer called Neff’s mother, Talia Palmer, to testify on her son’s behalf.

“My brain doesn’t really work as well as it used to,” Palmer said. “My heart is always hurting.”

Palmer also read a letter penned by Neff’s older brother.

“I think of all the experiences my little brother didn’t get to have,” Palmer said, reading the letter. “That is the greatest loss to me: A lifetime of small joys and shared moments that will never happen.”

Blackerby’s attorneys, Erskine Mathis and Sam Holmes, called former Shelby County Juvenile Court Director John Miller and three friends of Blackerby’s family to request Blackerby be given a lenient sentence.

“I always found him to be respectful and a very likeable young man,” Miller said of his interactions with Blackerby in Juvenile Court. “If you sentence him to a lengthy prison sentence, it will not do anything to benefit Matthew, you, I or the state of Alabama.”

Last year, Blackerby requested youthful offender status in the case, and was denied. If he had received youthful offender status, his maximum possible sentence would have been three years in prison.

Following the sentencing hearing, Blackerby’s attorneys said they planned to appeal the case.