A week after a jury convicted him of murder, Steven Blaylock was sentenced Thursday to life in prison with at least 25 years before he can seek parole, after a bizarre statement to the judge and a packed courtroom about how his wife wanted, after she died, to feed her "friends, the fish."
Deschutes County Circuit Judge Michael Adler imposed the sentence, and his lawyers said they plan to appeal it. Blaylock must wait 25 years before he can apply for parole.
After hearing the three people closest to Lori Blaylock sob through statements like this:
"The defendant made all her nightmares and insecurities come true," said Lori's sister, Cindy Wright.
Steven Blaylock attempted to justify dumping her body in the North Santiam River after murdering her.
"She really wanted her ashes spread in space by NASA. Obviously, that wasn't going to happen," said Blaylock.
Since Blaylock couldn't take his wife's corpse to space, he says that left him with few options.
"She also loved the servicemen and women of this nation, everybody knew that. Hher second option would be buried at sea. You've seen a casket slid off into the ocean. This was Lori -- she was very unique. This might sound like wild, I don't want to say accusations, but it might sound wild. But this is what Lori wanted, if at all possible. Well, that wasn't possible," said Blaylock.
What the 47-year-old decided was possible -- loading his dead wife's body into a covered utility trailer and driving more than an hour to Forest Service road 47 near Marion Forks, by the North Santiam River.
Police say Blaylock carried the lifeless body down a steep and rugged, 100-foot embankment.
He hid some of her blood-spattered clothes behind a nearby stump, then put her body in the fast-moving, frigid river.
Ironically, on Friday, Wright said she'd just visited the spot where Blaylock disposed of her sister's body, took a photo and later shared it with NewsChannel 21, along with this statement:
"My sister loved the snow along with a lot of mother nature other wonders. We talked in length about what she wanted in death when our mom passed and it wasn't to be shipped out to sea or dumped in a river half naked by a killer.
"As I reached the spot that she was so savagely dumped, the snow dusted the trees, forest floor, rhododendrons and swept all around the air. I think it's ironic, beautiful and still surreal that our first snow of the year was the day justice was heard. May Lori be skipping wherever she is and let it snow.
"I was upset that not more of the things we read to him made the news, but once again the act of a true psychopath has to get the last words and make it all about himself.
"I feel so sorry for his children along with mine.
"We won't have any trouble sleeping as far as his memory is concerned. We know the truth, and so did the jury, the judge, the DA's and her friends. And one last thing...
"She was a believer in faith, angels and a bigger power. We witnessed it together when our mom passed. She was into science, especially the ISS and shuttles. Maybe the only real thing he knew of her, but because of his actions AGAIN, there was no way to get her there.
I am in the process of getting one of her many drawings of the ISS on a Russian ride with an American astronaut to be put up on the ISS.
I'd gratefully take anyone else's help trying to make this happen if anyone knows some people at NASA, but either way I'll keep writing letters and trying to make it happen. It's the best I can do for her and her memory even though I feel that's probably somewhere she went right away once she left this journey.
- Cindy Wright
At his sentencing Thursday, Blaylock told the courtroom, filled with his wife's friends and family, that putting her body in the river was what she would have wanted.
"She made the comment, instead of being stuck in the ground. If I can't have my ashes spread in space, if I can't go to sea, .I would rather feed my friends, the fish," said Blaylock.
Gasps arose. And then, "You make me sick," said Lori's sister as she ran out of the courtroom in tears.
Deschutes County Circuit Judge Michael Adler told Steven he didn't have much to say to him, except this:.
"What you decide to do is come up with this bizarre story about how she wanted to be buried at sea to justify your act of dumping her body in the North Santiam River," the judge said. "I didn't know you could top so far what you've displayed in this case, but you did today."
Blaylock's defense testimony took only about a day, and he did not take the stand. His lengthy statement in court Thursday likely indicated why.
And with that, Judge Adler told Steven Blaylock he'd spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Jurors took only six hours to convict Blaylock, rejecting his defense lawyers' claim that his wife died during an alcohol-fueled struggle when she fell off the bed and onto the back of her neck. While extensive searches of the North Santiam River never found the woman's body, Blaylock led police to a spot by the river where some of her clothes were recovered.
"I'm not trying to justify my actions here, about what I'm about to say," Blaylock said, "but this was no preconceived -- it's what happened. It's what I did.
"I'm very sorry. If I could change what happened that day, I would."
"I am not some born-again Christian, and neither was Lori," he continued. "She really wanted her ashes spread in space by NASA -- obviously that wasn't going to happen."
Lori's friends and family had the chance to tell Steven Blaylock how they felt.
Her 18-year-old niece told of how the killer ruined her innocence, and how she now has trouble relating to or trusting anybody.
And one of Lori's closest friends, Rocky Hartman, talked about damaging the past year has been, and how she had sought counseling, not for coping with her cancer, but dealing with the loss of her friend.
In imposing a life sentence, Adler told Blaylock that he had shown no remorse, including in the police interview tapes.
He also said how he'd badly hurt so many lives with his actions.
Blaylock's lawyers did not want him to do an in-person interview from jail, but he called me this afternoon, insisting on a phone interview to tell his side of the story.
I asked Blaylock if his story would ever change, and he said it would not: "My story is not a story, it's fact."
"Her friends are going to be the ones not able to sleep at night, because they know what happened. They know about the attack," he said, still insisting that his wife had attacked him in his sleep and was killed in an awkward fall off the bed, onto the back of her neck.
As for what he'd said in court, Blaylock told me how he'd be caught off-guard by what his victim's family had to say.
"I was going to thank my friends and family for being there," he said. "I wasn't necessarily going to apologize, to really anybody. And I had a couple scriptures that I read -- I read the 'Daily Bread' every morning. And there was a good one, and I read part of it, and then I spaced it out. I really was caught off-guard with what was said about me, and I was in shock, after they said that my family was endangering her (Lori's sister, Cindy Wright)," sounding incredulous at the very notion of that.
After the sentencing, District Attorney Patrick Flaherty held a news conference outside his office on the case, touting the teamwork that brought Blaylock to justice.
He credited the countless hours spent by police and his office in their investigation. He also thanked Linn County Search and Rescue team members for helping look for Lori Blaylock's body.
In his first public comments on the case outside the trial, Flaherty said not having the victim's body was a challenge, but not enough to derail the case.
"As prosecutors in a no-body murder case, we always have some level of anxiety," the DA said. "But it was a very powerful case."
Flaherty was joined by officials from the Bend-based non-profit Saving Grace, which helps domestic abuse victims. They highlighted the need for people to speak up about domestic violence and take advantage of the resources available to them.
Flaherty lamented that it's hard to look back and realize a death like this did not have to happen.