Friday, May 16, 2014

Man charged with murder

Suspect accused in death of man missing since January


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Keith Eric Blankenship

A 49-year-old Hailey man has been arrested on a second-degree murder charge in the death of Stephan Michael Romanchuk, a 47-year-old Hailey man who had been missing since January.
    Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey said Thursday that Keith Eric Blankenship was arrested at about 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Blaine County Public Safety Facility following an interview there regarding Romanchuk’s disappearance.
    Blankenship remained incarcerated Thursday at the Blaine County jail, awaiting an initial court appearance later that day. Bond was se at $500,000.
    Ramsey declined to release information about what led investigators to regard Blankenship as a suspect.
    “This has been an ongoing four-month investigation that has culminated in the arrest at this point,” the sheriff said. “I want to be consistent with the message we have in court and what I’m telling you, so I’m not releasing it now.”
    Ramsey said a partially buried body, believed to be that of Romanchuk, was located at a residence on Deer Creek Road north of Hailey.
    “A search warrant was executed at 14 Deer Creek Road,” Ramsey said. “It (the body) was located outside of the residence. It happens to be the Keith Blankenship residence.”
    Ramsey said Romanchuk lived on North Aspen Drive, about a quarter mile from the Blankenship home.
    The sheriff said the Idaho State Police Forensic Services Response Team is assisting with recovery of the body, but that it had not been removed from the makeshift grave as of early Thursday afternoon.
    “It is currently in the process, but we’re still processing the crime scene,” the sheriff said.
    Ramsey said an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.
    Romanchuk was self-employed, providing snow-removal and cleaning services for local grocery stores. He had been missing since Jan. 15, along with his vehicle, a 1997 maroon Chevrolet pickup with a snowplow attached to the front. The vehicle was discovered unattended in February in an employee parking lot at Sun Valley Resort.
    Ramsey said a motive in the alleged murder is unclear, but it may have involved money.
    “Going back to the report, it says that Romanchuk had lent $100 to Blankenship and he was getting upset about it, so Romanchuk had confronted him several times about the money.”
    The sheriff said a second-degree murder charge was filed against Blankenship because “we do not feel at this time that this was premeditated.”




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