Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 22, 1994
Date of arrest: 2 days after
Date of birth: April 21, 1974
Victim profile: Nancy Thao (female, 5)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on April 30, 1996

State of Wisconsin Court of Appeals

opinion 95-2338-CR

Johnson Wade Greybuffalo (born April 21, 1974), made nationwide news in 1994 when he committed a burglary that culminated in the murder of a 5-year-old girl.

On the night of July 22, 1994, Greybuffalo broke into an apartment on the first floor of the same building in Green Bay, Wisconsin in which he resided on the second floor.

Finding a folding chair in the yard, he placed the chair under a window which was slightly open, then climbed on the chair to let himself in, first cutting the screen with a straight razor he was carrying, then reaching through the opening in the screen thus created to push the storm window up.

This put Greybuffalo in a bedroom which was unoccupied; he then exited this room and entered the living room, where he looked for items to steal, finding a large purse, which, when opened, revealed the presence of two smaller purses inside the large one. Inside one of these were some food stamps, which he took.

He then proceeded from the living room through a kitchen area, and opened a door at the far end of the apartment and discovered that this door led to another bedroom, with several people sleeping inside. He then hastily closed this door, trying to make as little noise as possible, then went back to look around for more items he could take.

At some point thereafter, it is alleged, five-year-old Nancy Thao came out of the bedroom and happened upon Greybuffalo, whereupon the latter produced a knife and stabbed her several times, causing her death.

Remembering that he had seen some keys in the purse he had discovered earlier, Greybuffalo removed two sets of keys from it, one of which enabled him to start one of two vans the victim's family owned and had parked outside.

After carrying the victim's body out of the building and dumping it in a garbage can next to the apartment building's garage, Greybuffalo drove off in the van he could start using the keys he had taken, and fled to Madison, Wisconsin, where he was apprehended two days later.

In 1995, Greybuffalo was found guilty following a jury trial of first-degree intentional homicide and was sentenced to life in prison. He appealed the conviction, but it was affirmed in a ruling handed down by the state Court of Appeals on April 30, 1996.

In addition, Nancy Thao's parents, Tou and Xee Thao, who are immigrants from Laos, filed a civil suit against Greybuffalo, receiving a judgment in their favor in excess of $1 million, though this action must be considered largely symbolic as Greybuffalo, sentenced to life behind bars, is never likely to be able to pay even a fraction of the amount awarded.

The case aroused shock and anger in the local community since crimes of this nature are extremely rare in Green Bay, but also underscored the difficulties that many Native Americans (he is a full-blooded Ojibwa) have encountered in recent times throughout the American Midwest, which include alleged racial discrimination and high rates of poverty and alcoholism.

Greybuffalo v. Frank

Sent to the Green Bay Correctional Institution to serve his sentence, Greybuffalo heavily immersed himself in the rituals of his Ojibwa nation, which eventually led to his filing a federal lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Corrections on October 8, 2003, accusing prison officials of infringing upon his right, under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (which became law in 2000) and also the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, to practice his tribal religion.

On November 4, 2003, Chief Judge Barbara Crabb of the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin issued a ruling dismissing some of the charges contained in Greybuffalo's suit, and set a tentative trial date in early 2005 to hear arguments on the remaining allegations. The case is officially known as Greybuffalo v. Frank.



Green Bay man get 75 years indeath of girl, 5

The Milwaukee Journel

January 21, 1995

Green Bay, Wis. A man convicted of stabbing a 5-year- old girl and stuffing her body in a garbage barrel Friday was ordered to spend 75 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

Brown County Circuit Judge Donald Hanaway sentenced Johnson Greybuffalo, 20, of Green Bay, to the mandatory life prison term and extended his parole eligibility to his birthday in 2070.

Greybuffalo gave no statement before the sentencing.

A jury deliberated less than two hours Jan. 14 before convicting Greybuffalo of first- degree intentional homicide for stabbing Nancy Thao, 5, after breaking into her Green Bay home through a bedroom window July 22.

Nancy's body was found in a barrel outside her family's apartment. She suffered 19 cutting wounds to her head, neck, chest and abdomen, and other injuries inflicted with a blunt object, according to trial testimony.

Greybuffalo told friends that he stabbed someone the night Nancy was killed but claimed the victim was a black youth in a group that attacked him on a street.

During the trial, he testified a friend of his killed Nancy.

Within hours after the girl's body was found, Greybuffalo, who had been released from the Brown County Jail July 6 to look for work, was arrested in Madison in a van stolen from the Thao family, court records say.

Using sophisticated genetic testing, medical experts linked blood and tissue from the girl to samples taken from Greybuffalo and his clothes.

Also Friday, Hanaway sentenced Greybuffalo to 20 years in prison for armed burglary of the Thao home and ordered that he serve the sentence after the term for murder was completed.


Man guilty in girl's death expected to appeal verdict

The Milwaukee Journel

January 16, 1995

Green Bay, Wis. A Green Bay man convicted of killing 5- year-old Nancy Thao and stuffing her body in a trash can faces sentencing later this week but still maintains he is innocent, his lawyer says.

Johnson Greybuffalo, 20, likely will appeal the verdict, said Eric Stearn, who was appointed to represent Greybuffalo through the state public defender's office.

Brown County District Attorney John Zakowski called Greybuffalo "a good excuse for the death penalty."

"This is a person who cannot be on the street at all," he said.

An eight-woman, four-man jury deliberated 1 hour and 45 minutes Saturday afternoon before convicting Greybuffalo of first-degree intentional homicide in the girl's death July 22.

The charge carries a mandatory penalty of life in prison. Greybuffalo also was convicted of armed burglary, felony car theft and misdemeanor escape and is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

Nancy can rest in peace now that her murderer has been convicted, said her father, Tou Thao.

"We are looking for brighter futures and hoping for the better," he said.

Jurors, who were sequestered during the six-day trial, said evidence was so overwhelming they had no problem convicting Greybuffalo. A DNA expert testified the girl's blood was on Greybuffalo's clothing.

The child received 19 cutting wounds to her head, neck, chest and abdomen, and other injuries inflicted with a blunt object, the court was told.

Greybuffalo's fingerprints were found on a storm window and on a fan in Nancy Thao's room.

"They didn't even really need the DNA evidence," juror Wendy Sutter said. "That print right on the fan, it gave it away that he was there, and he had blood on him."

Hours after the slaying, Greybuffalo was arrested in Madison with the Thao family's van and food stamps. He had been freed July 6 from Brown County Jail after serving time for failure to pay a fine for underage drinking.

Greybuffalo testified Friday that a friend of his stabbed Nancy to death. Greybuffalo said he took the girl from the friend, wrapped her body in blankets, carried her outside and left her on the driveway. The man testified Friday that he did not stab Nancy and didn't participate in the robbery.



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