RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - A 30-year-old cold case came to a unexpected end Wednesday when the man facing two manslaughter charges decided to plead "guilty" at his arraignment.
Bobby Blair (RPSO) with victims: Marian Elizabeth Coutee (left) and Isabelle Mansell Blair (right)
It was just last October when we saw the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office pull out an old Nissan truck from deep within a pond on 71-year-old Robert "Bobby" Blair's old family property. Soon after, a 30-year-old mystery began to unravel as Blair was indicted on two counts of manslaughter for the July 1989 disappearance and deaths of his wife at the time, Isabelle Blair, and her friend, Marian Coutee. Coutee had been there to help Isabelle leave her husband when the two vanished.
Blair pleaded guilty on Wednesday to two counts of manslaughter and was sentenced to 40 years in prison, an effective life sentence.
Iris Seekamp, Isabelle's daughter from a previous relationship who was only a child when her mother disappeared, finally got the chance to speak to the man who killed her mother.
"I always wondered what I would say to you," said Seekamp through tears. "How did you wake up every day knowing what you did, that you did this to her?" Later, "My mom knew she would die by your hands. She just didn't know when."
Marian's sister, Gwendolyn Coutee, told Blair that Marian purchased the truck that the two disappeared in for their father who had cancer. And, she knows one day she'll have to forgive him, but it's not the time yet.
Both families thanked the original investigator, Major Mark Baden and the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office for their work on the case.
"I never gave up," Major Baden told News Channel 5, emotional after the families thanked him. "I always knew that there was closure at the end of the road. I could make it happen. It took a lot of good cooperation for this to happen. Today is the day."
Prosecutor Christopher Bowman explained why the Rapides Parish District Attorney's Office agreed to the manslaughter plea.
"He will never see the exterior of a jail again," said Bowman. "This family had been waiting for so long for their day. He was arrested on Oct. 15, and now less than four months later he's serving an effective life sentence. That's exactly why we handled the case in the manner we handled it."
Blair chose not to comment or to apologize when given the chance to speak during his sentencing. His attorney, Chad Guillot, gave us this statement.
"Mr. Blair and I want to thank the Rapides Parish District Attorney's Office and the victims families for the agreement to plea to a 40 year sentence. Mr. Blair has admitted his guilt and has saved the victims families and loved ones from having to relive the tragedy they suffered many years ago. All involved can now move on as best they can. I can offer my condolences to the families of the victims and pray they can find peace and comfort in the closure obtained today."
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