Family says justice system failed man accused of murdering mother

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CLEVELAND-- The family of a Cleveland mother who police said was killed by her own son is speaking out for the first time. They claim the tragedy could have been prevented and told Fox 8 News the justice system failed 34-year-old Burley Blankenship and his family.

According to Cleveland police, Blankenship stabbed his mother, Chrisann Blankenship, to death inside their West 119th Street home on October 24. Troopers in Iowa arrested him the next day, while driving Chrisann's car. He’s being held on theft and traffic violations in Iowa pending his return to Cleveland to face murder charges.

“My mom's at peace now; she doesn’t have to worry about him anymore,” said Lillie Blankenship. “But it shouldn't be like that. My mom should be sitting right here with me continuing to battle to get him the help he deserves.”

Lillie Blankenship said her brother is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. She said he has three distinct personalities along with delusions that he has multiple wives and children. She said he even tried to dig a hole in his mother’s backyard to Afghanistan, saying he did so to destroy weapons of mass destruction.

“You see a lot of people downtown with schizophrenia, eating out of garbage cans, walking around begging for food,” she said. “My mom wouldn't allow that. She made sure that he was taken care of; we all did.”

Still, Burley Blankenship racked up convictions for theft and self-medicated with drugs. Most recently, he served 17 months in prison for threatening his parole officer. His family said the time behind bars meant shifts in his medications, and no plan for his mental healthcare upon his release last year.

“Had they done something then, we wouldn't be here today. My mom would still be alive. She didn't deserve this,” Lillie Blankenship said, adding that after her mother recently voiced fears Burley could get violent, help was hard to find.

She said while she doesn’t know for sure if her brother is guilty, and that he may not even understand what happened, she’s calling for changes to how the justice system handles and rehabilitates the mentally ill.

“I want the state of Ohio held accountable for this. My mom's death, if this is at the hands of my brother, is their fault. They failed my mom,” she said.

A spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) said in a statement to Fox 8 News that the agency is one of the largest mental healthcare providers in the state with about 20 percent of its offenders on its mental health caseload.

“If any offender is on the Mental Health caseload or classified severely mentally ill (SMI), we provide access to Mental Health clinicians, medication management, psychotherapy, and release preparation planning,” said the statement provided by spokesman Daniel Flowers.
“DRC has recently increased the amount of medication issued to SMI offenders when being released from prison. These offenders receive a 30 day supply and two refills.”

The statement said DRC works with the Ohio Dept. of Mental Health and Addiction Services to develop pre-release plans for medication, housing, benefits and other mental health services. DRC also is implementing collaboration with the Department of Medicaid to enroll offenders to assist with continuity of care, according to the statement.

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