The man who killed Larchmont policeman Arthur Dematte 46 years ago has been granted parole after more than a dozen rejections and will be released from prison next month.
Anthony Blanks, 69, a Missouri native with limited family support, will leave Sing Sing by Oct. 18 once he completes a community reintegration program, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. community monitoring.
The decision following a parole interview earlier this month enraged Larchmont police who have fought to keep Blanks behind bars for more than two decades but have been hailed by those who insist on the fact that he has served long enough and no longer poses a threat.
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On October 12, 1976, Dematte responded to a report of someone interfering with trains along the New Haven railroad tracks.
Behind the Daitch Shopwell supermarket, he approached Blanks, who managed to retrieve Dematte’s gun and shoot the officer.
Dematte started to run away but Blanks chased after him and shot him in the chest. Blanks attempted to flee in the officer’s car but it got stuck. He left the empty gun in the car and hid in shrubbery and was shot in the leg by responding officers.
Blanks, who had a history of mental illness, had walked from New York after arriving there from St. Louis days earlier to seek employment. He said he had not eaten for two days and had taken PCP during that time.
The jury that convicted him of first-degree murder in 1978 rejected his attorney’s argument that Blanks was suffering from extreme emotional disturbance at the time of the murder. By then, capital punishment had been abolished and Blanks was sentenced to the maximum sentence of 25 years to life. He spent almost as much time behind bars while eligible for parole as during his original sentence.
Detective Ralph Santoliquido, who was a training officer for Dematte when he joined the department in 1957, was the first to reach the fatally wounded officer.
In a letter to the parole board when Blanks first became eligible in 2001, Santoliquido detailed his last words with Dematte before he was taken to hospital. He wrote about Dematte’s wife and four children – including teenage daughter Jane, who rushed to her father’s side after his supermarket job – and how “the selfish, brutal and indifferent criminal act” of Blanks meant he should never reenter society. .
“May Anthony Blanks receive the same eternal sentence he gave to Arthur Dematte, but without the violence, eternal life in prison,” wrote Santoliquido, who died in 2015.
Dematte’s family and the police union have since opposed Blanks’ release.
Officer Dan Calapai, president of Larchmont’s PBA, lamented the decision and said members were almost resigned to it as they saw other NYC cop killers paroled in recent years. years.
More frequent parole hearings every nine months instead of two years meant it was more difficult to mount a strong letter-writing campaign. Calapai said he feared that if fewer people wrote in opposition, commissioners would mistakenly take it to mean Dematte’s colleagues in blue had mellowed.
“Our feeling is definitely that it’s politically motivated and it lets the families of the victims down,” he said.
But Clifford Jackson, a Larchmont resident who has been corresponding with Blanks for the past three years and wrote to the parole board on his behalf last month, said the decision was the right one. He said Blanks was in poor health and showed remorse.
“It was long overdue. He poses no threat to society,” Jackson said in a phone interview Thursday. “His life has been destroyed by what he did all those years ago. He has more than paid his debt to society.”
Jackson said the circumstances of the murder — a mentally ill black man with no history of violence confronting a white police officer — did not absolve Blanks of responsibility, but did highlight nuances that should have led to his release earlier. .
“(The police) were looking for him to rot in jail…that this is a punitive action designed to destroy the person no matter what the circumstances,” Jackson said. “It’s not a danger. He’s going to struggle to survive. It’s going to be hard for him just to get out of bed.”
Transcripts of Blanks’ parole interviews over the past few years showed that he had been denied adequate housing and had limited family support, key factors weighed by commissioners in addition to the seriousness of the crime.
During his last failed bid in December, the stewards also attacked Blanks for his suggestion that perhaps it was time for Dematte’s family to move on after so many years.
The relatives of the killed police officer could not be reached. But in a letter to the parole board in 2019, his daughter Jane opposed parole and said there would never be any forgetting of what Blanks had done.
When asked if he had a message for Blanks as he prepared to be released, Calapai struggled to find the right words.
“I think he has a responsibility to the (Dematte) family,” Calapai said. “He owes them a lot and I don’t think there’s anything that can ever quantify that.”
Contact Jonathan Bandler at [email protected] or 914-694-3520.