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FARRELL HOMICIDE 'Idol' singer has court date



Published: Sat, March 8, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Police said the suspect admitted striking the victim during an argument.

FARRELL, Pa. -- An Austintown, Ohio, man who told authorities he was a semifinalist in the "American Idol" television show will be in court later this month in the death of a Sharpsville man.

Authorities said Tuesday that Jaered N. Andrews, 24, of Westchester Drive, is charged with simple assault in the Nov. 16, 2002, death of Thomas E. Blakeley, 39, outside the Blue Ribbon Grille on Broadway Avenue.

Struck him

Andrews admitted striking Blakeley once in the face during an argument and said Blakeley fell over backward, according to court documents filed by police.

Andrews told authorities he and some friends were celebrating his making the finals of the television talent show and got into an argument with Blakeley.

After an investigation, he was charged Thursday and he turned himself in Friday. He was arraigned before District Justice Henry Russo and freed on $5,000 bond pending a preliminary hearing at 1:30 a.m. March 14.

A Fox spokesman confirmed that Andrews was an "American Idol" semifinalist but was disqualified by the producers Jan. 30. The reason for disqualification wasn't revealed.

Blakeley's death was ruled a homicide by J. Bradley McGonigle, Mercer County coroner, but James Epstein, Mercer County district attorney, said this isn't a murder case.

There was no premeditation and no malice in Blakeley's death, Epstein said, explaining that, under Pennsylvania law, a single punch doesn't constitute malice.

An autopsy showed that the punch injured Blakeley but didn't kill him.

Cause of death

He died when the back of his head struck the sidewalk when he fell, causing fatal blunt force trauma to his brain, Epstein said.

Epstein said that his office is still investigating the case and that a charge of involuntary manslaughter, which would be an accidental killing, is being considered. The prosecution, however, would have to prove that one punch was a reckless act that caused the death.

Another man charged

A second man is charged with aggravated assault in the case. Jerrold Lee Allen, 31, of Thornton Avenue, Sharon, admitted kicking Blakeley twice while he lay on the sidewalk, but those kicks didn't cause his death either, Epstein said.

Allen has waived his case into common pleas court.




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