Judge François Weighs DNA Collection Request in Malfetti Murder and Pre-trial Release of Blash

ST. THOMAS ­— While prosecutors urged Superior Court Judge Denise François not to release accused murderer Mekel Wayne Blash from custody pending trial, the court also was asked by investigators to order Blash to provide a DNA sample which could connect him to the crime scene.

Blash is accused in the January 2014 stabbing death of New Jersey internet entrepreneur James Malfetti who had moved to St. John to indulge his love for water sports.  Malfetti was found dead of knife wounds in his south shore apartment in January.

Judge François said the only reason for the Friday, July 10, hearing was to take testimony from the lead V.I. Police Department detective in the case, Mark Thomas.
Det. Thomas testified concerning Judge Francois’ pending decision on whether Blash should be allowed to go free pending trial.  The defendant has been in custody in the Criminal Justice Complex on $500,000 bail since his arrest on April 17.

The detective told Judge Francois that in the course of the current investigation he heard from witnesses saying they received threats from a Blash associate related to a prior case.
“Based on what the witness told us, we believed there was a violent threat,” Thomas told the court.

But defense attorney Public Defender Julie Smith Todman noted the threats did not come from the defendant. 

Smith Todman also argued against a motion to compel Blash to submit DNA evidence made by Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Webb.

Webb told the court Blash refused to submit to DNA testing when taken to the Roy L. Schneider Hospital as part of the evidence collection process.

“He was not going to allow the government to take the DNA without his attorney present,” Webb said.

Smith Todman admitted she was not available at the time but added she received no notice from the Justice Department of the requested test.  Neither did the Office of the Territorial Public Defender where she works, she said.

“My client invoked his right to counsel, the attorney said. “He wanted to make sure the process was properly done. You cannot hold that against him.”

But Webb pressed further, citing a number of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that said an attorney did not need to be present when DNA evidence was collected. He added that he felt he knew why Blash was avoiding the test.

If the test were conducted it would provide tangible evidence that Blash was in the apartment on St. John where Malfetti’s body was found.
Francois said she would take the arguments under consideration and indicated she is still considering whether to set bail conditions that would allow Blash’s release until he appears at trial.

Blash is charged with first degree murder, assault, grand larceny, burglary and use of a weapon in the commission of a violent crime.  The attorney for Malfetti’s family has publically questioned any court ordered release of the accused murderer.