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One year later… Arcuri, Brock murder suspect has new lawyers

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / May 11, 1998

LAPLACE – Sam and Louella Arcuri were slain in their home one year ago today, setting off an investigation which resulted in the arrests of Daniel Blank and Cynthia Bellard.

A year later the case is moving on course, but no trial date is in sight.

The murder of the Arcuris, and also that of Joan Brock of LaPlace on May 14, spurred a cooperative effort with neighboring law enforcement agencies and, with St. James and Ascension parishes and the GonzalesPolice Department, resulted in the arrest of Blank on Nov. 13.”We’ve been working very closely with the district attorney’s office, providing them with all the necessary information,” Chief Harold Klibert of the St. John Sheriff’s Office noted. “It’s going to be a very long,difficult process, but on the whole, the system is slow but it’s methodical.”He added the sheriff’s office has stayed in close contact with the victims’ families, keeping them appraised of developments.

Blank has also been accused of the deaths of Victor Rossi of St. Amant onOct. 27, 1996; Barbara Bourgeois of Paulina on March 19, 1997; LillianPhillippe of Gonzales on April 9, 1997; the attempted murder of Leonce and Joyce Millet of Ascension Parish on July 7, 1997, and the burglary of Wayne Melancon’s residence in Gonzales in April 1997.

Blank was located in Texas, arrested by St. John authorities and returnedto the River Parishes.

Glenn G. Cortello of Alexandria and Harold A. Van Dyke III of Pineville arerepresenting Blank. Mark Marino of Destrehan is representing Bellard.Prosecutor for the case is Assistant 40th Judicial District Attorney George Ann Graugnard.

Van Dyke said this week they took over Blank’s defense last month and are involved in sorting through a stack of documents related to the investigation. They received the information on a discovery motion April24 and should be back in Judge J. Sterling Snowdy’s court later this month.A motion to relocate the trial is expected to be filed soon, Van Dyke continued, and he added he felt the River Parishes area has been “saturated” media coverage of the case, making it next to impossible to empanel a jury.

He said with the semi-rural nature of the community and with so many family relationships and friendships across the area, finding an impartial jury who could approach the case with a fresh eye could be difficult.

“One of our difficulties has been trying to get up to speed,” Van Dyke added, as he and Cortello have just taken over the case from the local indigent defender board headed by Richard Stricks, Blank’s original attorney of record.

“The judge has been very understanding, but he let us know his patience has a limit,” Van Dyke noted.

Allegations were made by investigators that Blank’s motivation for the murders and robberies were to feed an insatiable gambling addiction.

“He preyed on elderly victims, as well as persons able to put up the least resistance,” St. John Sheriff Wayne L. Jones noted at the time of Blank’sarrest.

Bellard, Blank’s companion, was arrested as being his accomplice in some of the crimes, accused of driving him to the scene and taking him away.

Her arrest in Destrehan came soon after Blank’s.

Blank’s family maintains his innocence, despite his alleged confession to the crimes.

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