Blake Predator Status On Hold

Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato on Monday postponed a hearing to label convicted serial killer Eugene Blake as a sexual predator.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections asked for the hearing because Ohio law mandates that offenders who committed their crime prior to the effective date of the Jan. 1, 2008 Adam Walsh Act be designated as sexual predators.

Fregiato postponed the hearing after Belmont County Prosecutor Chris Berhalter told the court that a sexual predator designation hearing for Blake is unnecessary as Blake has no chance of being paroled.

On March 29, 2010, Common Pleas Judge Jennifer Sargus sentenced Blake to 20 years to life for aggravated murder during the commission of a rape. Blake had previously admitted that he killed Mark Withers, 21, of Lansing, and raped a 17-year-old female who was with Withers in Bridgeport’s Gould Park on March 19, 1982.

His first parole hearing will not be until 2030, minus time served in the Belmont County Justice Center while awaiting trial.

”This designation is usually given to offenders just prior to their release,” Berhalter said. ”But, in the case of Blake, it is unlikely he will every be returned to society.”

Fregiato’s docket entry noted that the prosecutor and court agreed to the hearing postponement because of Blake’s release date.

The entry indicated, ”However, the court and state emphasized that they were opposed to any eventual release and the Parole Board is hereby ordered to provide this court and the Belmont County Prosecutor’s office with notice of any release hearing in sufficient advance time in order that the state may oppose the same.”

Berhalter said he had notified members of the Withers family about Monday’s hearing.

Blake, 67, is incarcerated at the Chillicothe Corrections Institution.

In addition to the Withers’ murder, Blake served time in West Virginia for two other killings.

He killed Donna Jean Ball, an 18-year-old telephone operator, on Jan. 15, 1967, in Wayne County and murdered 13-year-old Hope Helmbright in Wheeling on Oct. 24, 1984.

Blake had been serving life without mercy for the Ball murder until then-West Virginia Governor Arch Moore commuted the sentence to life with mercy. In the Helmbright murder, Blake was sentenced to 15 years to life after pleading guilty to a lesser offense. He would have been eligible for parole in 2011 had he not been convicted in the Withers case.