S A N A N T O N I O, June 6, 2000 -- A Texas millionaire was convicted today ofarranging the murder of his ex-wife, who was found shot in herkitchen with her throat slit as her 2-year-old quadruplets crawledin her blood.
Allen Blackthorne, 45, was the last of four people suspected inthe murder-for-hire of Sheila Bellush to be convicted or to pleadguilty. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison withoutparole.
The verdict came hours after the hitman pleaded guilty inFlorida. Jose Luis Del Toro Jr., 24, then sang a song in courtasking for forgiveness. He was given two consecutive lifesentences.
Bellush, 35, was slain in Sarasota, Fla., in 1997. Her body wasdiscovered by her 13-year-old daughter from her marriage toBlackthorne. Her quadruplets from her second marriage were crawlingaround unharmed, wearing their life jackets for use in the backyardswimming pool.
Heated Custody BattleProsecutors portrayed Blackthorne as a man who hated his ex-wifeand who, after a string of custody battles, offered up to $54,000to have her killed, with a bonus if he regained custody of his twodaughters, who had been adopted by Bellush’s second husband.Prosecutors said he had used private investigators to track downBellush after she moved from Texas.
During the trial, Blackthorne took the stand and admitted heonce threatened to kill Bellush because he thought she was anegligent mother. But he denied arranging her murder.
The federal jury took 33 hours to find Blackthorne guilty ofinterstate conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and interstatedomestic violence. He faces sentencing Nov. 2.
Joy and DisappointmentThe courtroom was silent as the verdict was read becausemarshals had warned against any outbursts. But once her elevatorreached the ground floor, Gene Smith, Bellush’s mother, spread herarms and yelled, “Hallelujah!” as the doors opened.
“God bless all of these people who stood up for my daughter,”she said. “God bless these wonderful people.”
Defense attorney Richard Lubinsaid: “We felt that there was more than reasonable doubt. A greatinjustice has been done.” The lawyer said he will appeal.
Blackthorne retired after making a fortune selling medicaldevices. His Vancouver, Wash.-based business, InternationalRehabilitative Sciences, sells muscle stimulators under the name RSMedical.
‘You’re a Worthless Coward’The two middlemen in the plot are already in prison: The man whohired Del Toro, his cousin Sammy Gonzales, got 19 years behindbars. And Daniel Rocha, Blackthorne’s golfing buddy and the man whoasked Gonzales to find someone to kill Bellush, is serving life inprison.
In the Sarasota courtroom, Bellush’s widower, Jamie Bellush,held up pictures of his wife’s bloody, disfigured face for Del Toroto see.
Del Toro looked away.
“Mr. Del Toro, you’re a worthless coward with no remorse inyour heart!” he bellowed. He added: “It’s unfortunate that Icould not stand and watch you take your last breath with a needlein your arm.”
Then Del Toro said he, too, wanted to make a statement. His eyesred as he fought to hold back tears, he told Bellush in a soft,slow voice: “I do deserve to die. I am what you said of me. I cannow admit it.”
At one point, Del Toro broke into song: “Beautiful. That’s howmercy saw me. I was broken and so lost. Mercy looked past all myfaults.”
Jamie Bellush later called Blackthorne’s verdict “a bittersweetthing.”
“It’s a tragic story for everyone involved,” he said, “butcertainly our family is going to have closure.”