TV producer pleads no contest for Sister’s Studio City death

VAN NUYS, Calif. — A television producer accused of killing her sister did not contest the intentional homicide on Wednesday.

Jill Blackstone, 59, was immediately sentenced to eight years in state prison following her plea to one count of intentional homicide involving the March 2015 death of Wendy Blackstone, 49, in Studio City , as well as three counts of animal cruelty involving three dogs – two of whom died.

In an April 2018 statement announcing Jill Blackstone’s arrest, Los Angeles police said homicide detectives believe “the motive was Jill’s frustration at being forced to provide long-term care to Wendy. , as well as the associated financial difficulties”.

Jill Blackstone told LAPD detectives in a March 2015 interview that her sister had profound vision and hearing loss. She told police she had dedicated her life to ‘saving animals and saving people’ and ‘helping Wendy’ and ‘would never want to hurt her’.

“I know what it looks like. It wasn’t, it wasn’t me. It just isn’t,” she told detectives.

Earlier in the interview from a hospital bed, she said she used a charcoal grill to make burgers, then went to get something and remembered falling into the driveway. She said she woke up in broad daylight with the sun beating down on her neck, called a friend and told her she thought she was having a stroke because she couldn’t walk .

Police say Jill Blackstone – who has worked on such shows as ‘The Jerry Springer Show’, ‘Divorce Court’, ‘The Tony Danza Show’ and ‘Family Court with Judge Penny’ – set the garage on fire, killing her sister and two of the dogs, and staged it as an accident.

“My client clearly did not plead in any way to reduce her exposure to death” while behind bars in a case in which “we didn’t really have solid evidence of the cause of death,” the official said. defense attorney Danny Davis after the plea, noting that his client has Parkinson’s disease and lupus and is in a wheelchair.

The coroner’s office concluded that Wendy Blackstone died from inhalation of combustion and the sedative alprazolam, but Davis said he disputed the findings.

Davis noted earlier that prosecutors waited three years to file the case and that the biological and toxicological evidence that was collected and analyzed was destroyed before the prosecution filed the case.

“They killed a chance to get a better understanding of what caused his death,” Davis said of more extensive testing that could have been done.

Davis called the case a “family tragedy” and said her client’s elderly parents did not want to see their daughter die in prison.

During a roughly five-day hearing in 2019 in which Blackstone was sentenced to stand trial for murder, a Los Angeles police detective said a note allegedly written by Blackstone was found near the hand of his dead sister.

Police also found notes taped with black tape to a black trash can, including one that warned to ‘enter carefully’ and advised ‘both parties have no resuscitation orders’, and a note identifying each other’s hair color. , testified the detective.

In rejecting the defense’s claim that the prosecution presented insufficient evidence, Superior Court Judge James Brandolino noted that a reasonable inference could be drawn from the evidence that Jill Blackstone had planned what was to be a murder-suicide, the suicide having “gone badly,” adding that the nature of the notes and signs left at the scene “clearly support such an inference.”

She had been arrested shortly after her sister’s death in a garage in the 12,000 block of Landale Street, but was released when prosecutors declined to press charges.

Jill Blackstone was arrested again in April 2018 and has remained in prison ever since.

She could have faced a life sentence if convicted of the murder charge, which was dismissed following her plea.

“It’s not a slap on the wrist,” Jill Blackstone’s attorney said of the sentence.