A Forsyth County judge set a $2 million bond for a Winston-Salem man accused of helping to kidnap, assault and kill a 17-year-old five years ago. The boy's nude body was left on the side of a road near Germanton.
Curtis Henry Blakemore, 24, is one of three men charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and armed robbery in connection to the death of Jessy Mendez Santiago on March 31, 2015. One of the men, Kevin Bernard Wright, 26, of University Parkway, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and armed robbery in December 2019. He is now serving up to 26 years in prison.
Forsyth County prosecutors say neither Blakemore nor Wright pulled the trigger. They allege that Jareke Tayvon Jackson, 25, is the one who shot Santiago to death, but he has been declared incompetent to stand trial. Jackson was shot twice in the head during an incident that happened soon after Santiago's death. According to several safekeeping orders, he now has trouble communicating.
Prosecutors have said that the three men robbed Santiago of $10.
Blakemore has been held without bond since 2016 on the murder charge. His attorney, David Freedman, filed a motion to set bond. Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Martin asked Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court to set the bond at $15 million.
Hall declined to do so and set the bond at $1.5 million for the murder charge and another $500,000 for the kidnapping and robbery charges. Hall said that if Blakemore is released on bond, he will have to be on electronic monitoring and he cannot have any contact with Santiago's family or the co-defendants in the case.
Assistant District Attorney Jane Garrity said in court Tuesday that Blakemore posed a danger to the community. She said Blakemore had accumulated an extensive violent criminal history. In June 2014, he was charged with several offenses, including four counts of breaking and entering and one count of possession of a stolen motor vehicle. While he was on pre-trial release for those charges, he was arrested on charges of assault inflicting serious bodily injury and common law robbery.
At the time of Santiago's death, she said, Blakemore was on pre-trial release for the assault and robbery charges. Blakemore was eventually convicted of all of those charges.
"The reality is stark," she said. "He was on pre-trial release on violent felonies."
At Wright's plea hearing in 2019, Lt. Terry S. Peddycord of the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office said Santiago had gotten off work and was doing laundry when he stopped at a McDonald's restaurant near the intersection of University Parkway and Hanes Mill Road. Outside the restaurant, Santiago approached Blakemore, Jackson and Wright about buying illegal drugs. Santiago and the men got into Santiago's car, and Santiago drove to a nearby apartment complex. Peddycord said Wright and Jackson went to knock on somebody's door but no one was home.
Then Jackson ordered Santiago out of the car and the three men beat him up. Peddycord said Santiago was forced back into the back of the car at gunpoint and they all drove to another apartment. After that, Blakemore drove to Memorial Industrial School Road south of Germanton.
Peddycord said Jackson forced Santiago to strip off his clothes and then shot Santiago 13 times, with a bullet wound to his neck being the likely fatal shot. The men left Santiago lying on the road, and he wasn't found until after he was reported missing. Santiago's body was found on April 3, 2015.
Freedman said sheriff's investigators went to one of the three men, who gave an incomplete statement. Then investigators talked to Blakemore, who was serving time on his assault and robbery convictions. Blakemore was cooperative and gave a full statement, Freedman said.
Freedman said that Blakemore was under duress and was terrified of Jackson.
Martin and Garrity argued that Blakemore's alleged role in Santiago's death was an escalation from his previous convictions on violent felonies. They also argued that he is a danger to the public based on the fact that he is alleged to have helped kill Santiago while he was on pre-trial release for violent felonies. Martin said Blakemore may not have pulled the trigger but he beat Santiago and helped rob him.
Blakemore was supposed to have been tried earlier this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the case. The case is now tentatively set for trial starting the week of May 15.
"If we had our druthers, he would be in prison (now) for the rest of his life," Martin said.