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Blackthorne's lawyers say search was improper

Lawyers for a millionaire businessman accused of arranging his ex-wife's murder contend that investigators acted inappropriately when they searched his home.

Allen Blackthorne's lawyers said in court Thursday that investigators photographed unimportant but potentially embarrassing personal items when they searched his home, according to Friday's San Antonio Express-News.

Arguing that the search trampled Blackthorne's rights, lawyers asked a federal judge to dismiss charges against Blackthorne in the 1997 Sarasota slaying. Short of that, they demanded that U.S. District Judge Edward C. Prado bar prosecutors from using anything found during the Jan. 27 search.

FBI Special Agent Michael Appleby, who led the search, denied the accusations in court.

Sheila Bellush died in her home after she was shot and her throat was slit. Prosecutors in Florida and Texas have accused Blackthorne, 44, of being involved in a plot to kill Bellush that also involved Blackthorne's former golfing partner, Danny Rocha, and another associate, Samuel Gonzales.

Rocha and Gonzalez have been convicted on Florida charges related to the murder. The trial of Jose Luis Del Toro, charged with carrying out the slaying, is set for July 10 in Sarasota.

_ Staff and wire reports