by AMANDA WINTERS
Standing in a crowded courtroom, holding her fidgeting 1-year-old baby boy, Leslie Blanton didn’t hold back when a smirking Patrick Drum, accused of murdering her husband, looked in her direction.
“You left them without a dad,” she sobbed as two Sheriff’s corrections deputies led Drum out of the courtroom and back to jail.
Moments earlier, Clallam County Prosecutor Deb Kelly charged Drum with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the deaths of Gary Lee Blanton Jr., 28, and Jerry Wayne Ray, 55.
Investigators believe Drum killed the men because they were listed sex offenders. But they also were fathers, husbands and sons, their families say. “He thinks it’s wonderful he’s killed my husband and my children’s father,” Leslie Blanton said the next day. “All because of the (sex offender) registry.”
Gary Blanton Jr. pleaded guilty in 2001 to third-degree rape in Thurston County. He was 17 and accused of raping a 17-year-old disabled girl. Leslie Blanton said the two were dating and it was the girl’s parents who pursued the charge.
Ray pleaded guilty in May 2002 to two counts of first-degree child rape involving a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old. He completed outpatient sex offender treatment and served court-ordered community custody.
Ray’s father, Paul Ray, said his son was married three times and his current wife lives in Port Angeles. Jerry Ray had three children with his first wife, he said.
Paul Ray said his wife, Juanita Ray, died almost two years ago after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Along with Jerry Ray, they had two other sons and one daughter they raised in Missouri and California, he said. The couple moved to Port Angeles in 1994 and Jerry Ray lived with them off and on until three years ago, when he moved in permanently.
Jerry Ray, who suffered a back injury eight years ago that prevented him from working, would help out around the house, his father said.
In the weeks before his death, Jerry Ray spent a couple hours a day painting the house white with brown trim, Paul Ray said.
Along with being an excellent cook who could make “anything you want,” Jerry Ray drove his father anywhere he wanted to go.
“He was my chauffeur,” Paul Ray said. “He liked to do it. Wherever I needed to go he’d take me. I’ll miss that.”
Jerry Ray was cremated. No service was held.
“I’m hanging in there,” Paul Ray said, adding he’ll turn 84 this month. “I’m by myself now.”
Leslie Blanton remembers her husband as a man who was rough around the edges but fought for what he thought was right.
“Gary was so misunderstood,” she said. “He was just all heart.”
The couple met when Gary Blanton was 19, and though people warned him about her bad reputation and told him not to get involved with her, he loved her anyway, she said.
“Gary just made me feel like nobody else could,” she said. “He made me feel like I was the center of his universe and the center of his life.”
When she gained 80 pounds during pregnancy, he painted her toenails. When other girls made advances, he ignored them.
“I liked how Gary made it known when it came to anybody, I’m the one he picks,” she said.
Married in 2008, they had ups and downs just like any other couple, she said. But no matter how badly they fought, he never gave up and always made sure she knew he loved her, she said.
While she gave birth to their sons, Gary Blanton III, 2, and Skylar, 1, it was her husband who caught the babies and was the first to hold them after spending hours kissing her forehead and thanking her for giving him a family, she said.
“Gary always told me, ‘You’re the only one that I love for the rest of my life, Leslie, the only one that’s going to be my wife, the only one that’s going to have my babies,’” she said.
Charged with child abuse, Gary Blanton had to live apart from the family until he stood trial, scheduled for this August. Leslie Blanton said her husband discovered Skylar, who has Down syndrome, had a broken arm after he was in the care of a babysitter all day.
“Being away from us crushed him,” she said, adding he complied with everything the courts asked so he could visit his family as much as possible. “We were still waiting to get him home.”
Leslie Blanton said no courts, monsters or anything else can keep her from her husband.
“When I’m done here in this life and our kids are grown and I have grand-babies and it’s time to go to Jesus, I’m going to go home to my husband,” she said. “We’ll have our life back together.”
Lighthouse Christian Center in Port Angeles has established a donation fund for the Blanton family to cover Gary Blanton’s funeral expenses. To donate, send a check made out to “Lighthouse” for the “Blanton Memorial” to the church at 304 Viewcrest Ave., Port Angeles, WA 98362, or go online to www.lighthousepa.org. For more information about the fund, call the church at 452-8909.
“He didn’t deserve this,” Leslie Blanton said. “Nobody deserves this.”
Reach Amanda Winters at firstname.lastname@example.org.