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Man Sentenced for Part in Drug Lab Deaths of 2

November 19, 1988|STEVE PADILLA | Times Staff Writer

A man who supplied chemicals to a clandestine drug laboratory in Van Nuys was sentenced Friday to 5 years in prison for his role in the deaths of two people asphyxiated by poisonous gases while making methamphetamine.

Russell Blackwood, 25, had faced second-degree murder charges but, in an agreement with prosecutors, pleaded guilty in August to two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Christopher Richard Smith, 27, and Lisa Ann Cross, 20, both of Van Nuys.

Blackwood, of Vista in San Diego County, was sentenced to two 4-year terms for involuntary manslaughter and to a 5-year term for manufacturing methamphetamine. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Candace D. Cooper said Blackwood will serve the three sentences concurrently, meaning his maximum stay in prison will be 5 years.

3rd Man Died

Blackwood was not charged in the death of Christopher Smith's brother, David Michael Smith, who also was overcome by the deadly fumes during a botched attempt to produce methamphetamine in a duplex on Densmore Avenue.

Blackwood told investigators he was in Vista when David Smith, 20, telephoned him Oct. 4, 1986, to say something had gone wrong with the laboratory. Smith said that he, his brother and Cross felt sick, Blackwood said.

When Blackwood arrived in Van Nuys the next morning, Christopher Smith and Cross were dead, authorities said. David Smith died while Blackwood drove him to a hospital, authorities said.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Carole A. Chizever said prosecutors agreed to the plea bargain because they were unsure second-degree murder charges could be applied in the case.

Under state law, Chizever said, prosecutors may file second-degree murder charges if a death occurs during the commission of an "inherently dangerous" felony. What was unclear was whether supplying hazardous chemicals for a drug laboratory could be considered an inherently dangerous act, Chizever said.

A similar case pending before the state Supreme Court should resolve the issue, she said.

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