Friday, May 25, 2018
Public safety

Police: Man admits he gave misleading tips in 2005 Clearwater homicide case

CLEARWATER — Axley Blanton summoned police detectives to his cell at the Pinellas County Jail nearly six years ago with an important tip.

Blanton said he had information about the murder of James Siebert, a 53-year-old Clearwater man beaten to death in 2005.

Police say not only did Blanton claim to know the names of those responsible, but he also said he knew where the murder weapon was. He even led police to a spot on the Pinellas Trail.

Years went by. Siebert's murder remains unsolved.

And on Monday, after being hauled to jail on an unrelated domestic battery charge, Blanton made a second confession to authorities.

"Blanton admitted … that the information he provided in the Siebert case was false," officials wrote in an arrest affidavit. "Blanton's actions resulted in misleading police for a period of over five years where his information could neither be confirmed or proven false."

Blanton, 42, of St. Petersburg, now faces a charge of falsely reporting a capital crime. He remained in jail Tuesday on $5,150 bail.

Clearwater public safety spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts said officials hope the felony charge sends a message to Blanton — and others.

"This is extremely frustrating for detectives who spent countless hours over the years trying to follow up on and validate a lead that did not exist," she said. "It's wasted time that we can't get back and it's false hope for the victim's family."

Siebert was found beaten on the head and forearms on Nov. 2, 2005, in the parking lot of his apartment complex in the 600 block of Sally Lane, near the intersection of Druid Road and Missouri Avenue in Clearwater.

Police believe he was attacked with a blunt instrument early that morning as he was leaving for his job as a stocker at Lowe's.

A neighbor called police after hearing a disturbance, police said, and the attacker ran away.

Siebert was not robbed. He died at Morton Plant Hospital later that day.

Blanton met with police at the jail in November 2006, the arrest affidavit states. He was there on charges of dealing in stolen property, for which he was later sentenced to more than a year in prison, according to Department of Corrections records.

Back then, Blanton told detectives he had "direct knowledge" of the Siebert case and led them to the Pinellas Trail and a pair of bike forks, which he claimed to be the hidden murder weapons.

But police could never validate Blanton's claims, Watts said.

Detectives revisiting the Siebert cold case reached out to Blanton again after he was booked into jail last week on the unrelated domestic incident. That's when he told them the info he provided all those years ago was false.

"We have not established any connection between him and the victim," Watts said. "We believe he heard about the case and concocted a story in hopes of getting some leniency with the charges he was facing for dealing in stolen property at that time."

Siebert's family could not be reached for comment.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

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