Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Robbery
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: January 16, 1983
Date of birth: September 26, 1948
Victims profile: Julia Ballentine, 90, and her sister Mabel Avery, 86
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Dade County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on August 19, 1988

Supreme Court of Florida

opinion 73075 opinion 78411 opinion SC04-866

DC#  113069

Eleventh Judicial Circuit, Dade County Case # 85-23640-B
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Arthur Rothenberg
Attorney, Trial: Sandra Jaggard – Private
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Michael Zelman – Private
Attorney, Collateral Appeals:  William Hennis & Roseanne Eckert – CCRC-S

Date of Offense: 01/16/83

Date of Sentence: 08/19/88

Date of Resentence: 07/10/91

Circumstances of Offense:

Julia Ballentine, 90, and her sister Mabel Avery, 86, shared a house in the Leisure City area of Homestead, Florida. 

On Monday morning, 01/17/83, neighbors became concerned when the sisters did not answer their phone.  After knocking on the door and windows and receiving no answer, the neighbors discovered that the rear screen door was slashed open. 

One of the neighbors entered the house and found a body in each of the bedrooms.  Avery had fourteen stab wounds and nine defensive wounds on her arms and hands.  Ballentine had thirty stab wounds and twelve defensive wounds, and was sexually assaulted prior to death. 

The medical examiner testified that the murder occurred in the early morning hours of Sunday, 01/16/83. 

Feliciano Aguayo, a social and work acquaintance of Henry Garcia, testified that on the evening of 01/15/83, he and Garcia played pool prior to Garcia’s date with a young woman.  The woman broke off the date, and Aguayo testified that Garcia was upset and asked Aguayo to drive him to Leisure City.  After trying to convince Garcia to go home, Aguayo dropped Garcia off at the Leisure City Lounge. 

Around 7:00 a.m. on 01/16/83, Aguayo’s mother testified that she saw Garcia running to her house from the direction of the victims’ house, which was half a mile away.  Aguayo and his mother both testified that Garcia was covered with fresh blood.  Garcia explained that he had been walking in a nearby field when he was attacked by two men and a woman, and that he had stabbed the woman in self-defense. 

Garcia showed Aguayo the knife, which had drying blood on it and was bent at the tip.  Aguayo noted that Garcia had no visible injuries, except for a scratch around his eye.  Later that day, Aguayo and his mother drove to the spot where they believed Garcia had been attacked, but could find no signs of a struggle.

One of Garcia’s co-workers, Rufina Perez, testified that she overheard Garcia discussing the murder.  According to the conversation, Garcia admitted getting into trouble with some women, but that he did not have to worry about them because the women were “already in hell.”  When asked how he committed the crime, Garcia said, “I went through the back door and I ripped out the screen door.”

Additional Information:

In the penalty phase of trial, the State presented evidence of Garcia’s prior criminal history, and used this as an aggravating circumstance.  Garcia’s prior criminal history included convictions for assault with intent to rob in 1968, bank robbery and use of a dangerous weapon in May of 1972, mutiny at a U.S. penitentiary in January of 1979, and aggravated battery with the use of a deadly weapon on 07/01/83.

Trial Summary:

10/09/85          Indicted as follows:

Count I            First-Degree Murder

Count II           First-Degree Murder

Count III          Sexual Battery

Count IV           Armed Burglary

05/18/88          Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment

06/01/88          Jury recommended a death sentence for each murder by votes of 12-0 

08/19/88          Sentenced as follows:

Count I             First-Degree Murder – Death

Count II            First-Degree Murder – Deat

Count III           Sexual Battery – Life Imprisonment

Count IV            Armed Burglary – Life Imprisonment

06/14/90          FSC reversed the convictions, vacated the sentences, and remanded for a new trial

05/23/91          Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment

05/28/91          Jury recommended a death sentence for the Ballentine murder by a vote of 12-0 and life imprisonment for the Avery murder

07/10/91          The judge overrode the jury recommendation of life imprisonment and resentenced Garcia to death for both the Ballentine and Avery murders

Case Information:

Garcia filed a Direct Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 09/06/88.  His appeal centered on the Circuit Court’s exclusion of payroll records that were argued to be exculpatory evidence and the State’s statement to the jury that the police were unable to find exculpatory evidence because none existed.  

Garcia argued that a State witness, Rufina Perez, who claimed to overhear a confession by Garcia, could not have overheard Garcia because Garcia was no longer working with Perez at the time of the alleged confession.  The payroll records, which Garcia alleged could prove the veracity of his statement and impeach the testimony of Perez, were excluded from trial evidence as unreliable and untrustworthy. 

The FSC concluded that the payroll records were relevant admissible evidence and the statements by the State about the lack of exculpatory evidence were prejudicial to Garcia’s case and denied him his right to a fair trial.  On 06/14/90, the FSC reversed Garcia’s convictions, vacated his sentences, and remanded the case for a new trial.

After resentencing, Garcia filed a Direct Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 08/14/91, citing the following errors:  denial of motions for judgment of acquittal; reading some portions of the trial testimony to the jury and failing to read other portions; allowing the prosecutor to introduce inadmissible and prejudicial hearsay; prosecutorial misconduct during the trial (primarily, during closing arguments); erroneously instructing the jury on the elements of the crimes; admitting and allowing the use of inflammatory photographs; allowing the State to prove the falsehood of Garcia’s alibi; erroneously instructing the jury on circumstantial evidence; excusing a juror based on inconsistent and inconclusive statements about the death penalty; the cumulative effect of guilt phase errors mandates reversal; improper finding of all aggravating circumstances (currently under prison sentence; prior felony conviction; murder committed during a felony; heinous, atrocious or cruel murder); failing to find any mitigating circumstances; and overriding the jury recommendation of life imprisonment for one of the murders. 

The FSC affirmed the convictions and sentences on 08/11/94.

Garcia filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on 01/23/95 that was denied on 04/24/95.

Garcia filed a 3.850 Motion with the Circuit Court on 03/26/97 and amended the motion on 08/01/97.  The motion was denied by the Circuit Court on 04/01/04.

Garcia filed a 3.850 Motion Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 05/18/04 that is pending before the court.

Garcia filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the Florida Supreme Court on 07/27/05 that is pending.


Henry Garcia



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