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Did Power Quest Produce a Killer? : Slaying: Mike Blatt wanted to run the Seattle Seahawks, but now he stands trial for arranging the death of his former business partner.

December 17, 1989|JULIE CART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

\o7 Larry Carnegie was running late. He was still at work at 6 p.m., and he had told the man he would meet him at the house on Tokay Colony Road at 6:30. Carnegie left Riverboat Realty, stopped to get $200 from a banking machine, then drove to the property he was showing in a rural area northeast of Stockton. He drove along California State Route 88, past rows of walnut and peach trees, through the town of Waterloo (pop. 298) and turned off on Tokay Colony Road. Carnegie drove two miles down the narrow country lane, which cut through tidy farms and open, furrowed fields. It was dark that night, Feb. 28, 1989, the sun had set at 5:59 and there were no street lights.

Carnegie pulled into the gravel driveway at 14152 Tokay Colony Road. Only the barest of light was shining from within the white wood-frame house.

They were waiting for him.

James Mackey and Carl Hancock had been at the vacant house for an hour. It was after 7 when Carnegie's car came up the drive. Mackey was hiding in the garage. Hancock, who had told Carnegie his name was Sam Jackson, came out to greet the realtor. The two men went into the house and looked around for 15 minutes. The plan was for Hancock to lure Carnegie into the garage, where Mackey would kill him with a crossbow.\f7

That was the plan, but it didn't work out quite that way. In fact, very little of the elaborate plan to murder Larry Carnegie was carried out, other than the brutal fact of Carnegie's death. Mackey and Hancock, who have confessed to the actual murder, did not turn out to be clever planners or even skillful killers.

The two former University of the Pacific football players made many mistakes, before and after Carnegie's murder, that led authorities first to Mackey and, eventually, to Hancock.

And finally, to Mike Blatt.

Blatt is a 44-year-old Stockton developer well known in the San Joaquin Valley for his aggressive, and successful, negotiating. Blatt Development Co. did $120 million worth of construction in its first 10 years. Blatt owns apartment complexes in California, Arizona and Nevada.

Blatt is also a consummate negotiator in another sphere--professional sports. He became a successful sports agent in 1982 and at one time his Sunwest Sports agency represented more than 50 NFL players, making it one of the five largest in football.

Blatt hit the big time in another realm of sports, too, helping put together the sale of the Seattle Seahawks in August of 1988. Blatt brought together the Nordstrom family and the eventual buyer, Californian Ken Behring. Blatt had a stake in the deal as well, putting up $8 million in escrow for a future 10% interest in the team.

And, for a few weeks in February of this year, Blatt was in his glory, acting as the Seahawks' interim general manager. He boldly proclaimed that he would "create a dynasty" in Seattle.

Blatt didn't have an opportunity to do that. On Feb. 22, after what some would call a power struggle, Blatt was out as general manager and former Raider coach Tom Flores was in.

Six days later, Larry Carnegie's body was thrown down a ravine in remote Sonoma County.

James Mackey later testified in a pretrial hearing that he killed Carnegie as "a favor" to Blatt. Mackey, who had been a client of Blatt, testified he had become a real estate agent in order to get closer to the developer, whom he admired.

Asked why he was willing to kill for Blatt, Mackey testified: "I wanted to have a close relationship with Mike, eventually a working relationship. I wanted to establish some trust between us."

On Dec. 8 in Stockton, Mike Blatt was ordered to stand trial in the murder-for-hire of Laurence J. Carnegie. Municipal Judge Thomas B. Teaford ordered, after a three-week preliminary hearing, that Blatt be bound over for trial in Superior Court and be held without bail on a first-degree murder charge. Teaford also found that "special circumstances" existed, meaning that Blatt could face the death penalty if convicted.

The descriptions of the murder were obtained from the testimony of Mackey and Hancock during the pretrial hearing and from court documents.

To fully understand why Mike Blatt has been charged by the State of California with hiring Mackey and Hancock to kill Carnegie, it is necessary to understand how the pursuit of power brought Blatt and Carnegie together, enabled them to profit together, and, ultimately, split them bitterly.

To Eual D. Blansett, the deputy district attorney who is prosecuting the case, Blatt and Carnegie were strong-willed men who had faced off like "praying mantises in mortal combat. They would both starve to death before they would unlock in combat."

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