A Vista man accused of helping set up a drug lab in a Van Nuys duplex pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder charges in connection with the deaths last weekend of three people who were overcome by toxic gases while using the makeshift lab.
Russell Blackwood, 22, was arraigned in Los Angeles Municipal Court on three counts of second-degree murder and one count each of manufacturing methamphetamines and conspiring to manufacture the drug. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Carole Chizever said investigators have evidence that Blackwell was involved in a conspiracy to set up the lab where three people died Sunday after inhaling fumes from a mixture of chemicals used to produce methamphetamine, also known as "speed" or "crank." She declined to say what role Blackwood played in the alleged conspiracy.
File Under State Law
Prosecutors filed the complaint against Blackwood under a state law that permits murder charges if a death occurs because of an inherently dangerous crime. Chizever said the law is the same used to convict Cathy Evelyn Smith of involuntary manslaughter in the death of comedian John Belushi from an overdose of cocaine and heroin.