Behind closed doors: Details emerge on child murder that shook Roseville

New England Drive in Roseville where the Blakleys lived. Photograph by Scott Thomas Anderson

Joan Didion wrote that “life changes in an instant.”

She was describing how quickly Death appears when we’re not ready; but the same holds true when it comes to emergency calls quickly morphing into highly sensitive investigations. On an evening last winter, everything changed in an instant for Roseville Police Sgt. Sean Van der Wende. One moment, he was examining some strangers’ living room, trying to help a nearby emergency department. Seconds later, his phone was lighting up with a call from a co-worker – and he was seeing the house on New England Drive through a different lens.

It was February 2, 2024.

Van der Wende was on patrol that night when responders started speeding towards a house in South Roseville. Dispatch had been alerted to a nine-year-old boy who wasn’t breathing. Van der Wende pulled up to the address at 6:10 p.m. and went inside. There were firefighters. There were children yelling and screaming. A man with a beard was standing at the top of the staircase. He was 37-year-old Cory Blakley. He lived at the house with his 37-year-old wife, Kimberly and their seven children. Roseville police would soon discover that two of these little ones were the Blakleys’ biological kids, and the other five had been adopted out of the foster care system.

Now, one of the former foster kids lay in a bedroom just past Cory. He was frighteningly unresponsive. Van der Wende took a look. The little boy, who came to be known as ‘C.y.B.’ in court records, had firefighters hunched over him, trying to save his life.

Van der Wende asked Cory what happened.

“He told me that he had been outside barbecuing while his kids and wife were on the couch watching a movie,” the sergeant testified last month during a preliminary hearing. “He told me that ‘C.y.B.’ had fallen asleep and that, by the time they realized that, they went to check on him and found that he was unconscious and potentially not breathing.”

“And did he tell you where he fell asleep?” asked Placer County prosecutor Andrew Braden.

“Kind of the middle section of the couch,” Van der Wende responded, “facing the television, downstairs.”

Troubling medical events aren’t uncommon in emergency response. As a ten-year veteran of the police force, Van der Wende knew that as well as anyone. But there was an element of the situation that caught his attention: The couch and television were downstairs, and firefighters were battling to save the child in an upstairs bedroom. Van der Wende asked Cory why. The father responded that he and his wife had decided to move ‘C.y.B.’ upstairs once they had realized he wasn’t breathing.

Kimberly Blakley was surrounded by her other six children in another room as the house bustled with medics.

Van der Wende approached a Roseville fire captain who turned and said it wasn’t looking good.

Soon, responders were moving ‘C.y.B.’ down the staircase and hurrying him into an ambulance. They took off for a Roseville hospital.

“What happened next?” Braden asked in court.

“I kind of stuck around for a little bit,” Van der Wende recalled. “I examined the area where I was told the victim had been found originally … I kind of conducted a search there to see if there was anything irregular, or anything that might have caused this – was trying to help the fire department with what they might be able to do to help save the child … At this point, I felt like I was dealing with a tragic emergency of – of a juvenile that was not doing well … I believed it was a medical emergency … I didn’t have anything to tell me otherwise.”

“At any point in time did it become a crime scene?” Braden asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“And what changed your mind that you were dealing with a crime scene?”

“I received a phone call from Officer Strickland, who was at the hospital where the victim was at,” Van der Wende replied, “and he informed me that doctors had located bruising all over the child’s body.”

Things change in an instant.

The hospital  

Photograph by Leiada Krozjhen

Officer Matthew Strickland had arrived at Sutter Roseville Medical Center at 7:03 p.m. He was met by one of the hospital’s social workers, who brought him in to see ‘C.y.B.’ The officer was shown patterns of bruising and other injuries on various parts of the child’s body. Strickland also spoke with a specialized nurse and ordered some examinations. He was told that ‘C.y.B.’ was being transferred to UC Davis Medical Center for a higher level of care.

Strickland made some calls.

Roseville police detective Pavin Hayer began heading for the house on New England Drive.

Cory Blakley met Hayer when he arrived. As the detective was walking through the premises, he noticed that there were Ring surveillance cameras everywhere. They were in the kitchen, the living room, the bedrooms, the laundry room, the garage. There was even a Ring camera in an upstairs bathroom. 

Hayer asked Cory if the cameras were working. Cory allegedly remarked that they all were functional except for a few that were battery powered rather than hard-wired. At some point, Hayer spotted a Ring camera near the couch where ‘C.y.B’ had lost consciousness. There was a black piece of electrical tape above the lens. The investigator pressed Cory on what was going on. Cory reportedly answered that the living room camera was broken.

During the court hearing, prosecutor Jennifer Ow asked Detective Hayer if he thought that was odd.

“Yes,” he acknowledged. “The living room camera was a wired camera that was affixed to the wall.”

Things were not adding up for Roseville police, but the information coming in was about to get much, much worse.

Detective Bryan Kruse made his way to the hospital and spoke to Dr. McKinney, a physician with 17 years of experience who was monitoring ‘C.y.B.’ McKinney said the boy had signs of a brain injury.

“There was petechiae and redness on his face, inside of his eyes – his neck was red, petechiae on the neck,” Kruse remembered on the witness stand. “The doctor said it was his belief, based on the petechiae and the other injuries, that this was a strangulation case.”

“Did the doctor tell you whether or not any type of scan was done, a CT scan?” prosecutor Braden asked.

“He did, yes,” Kruse answered. “There was a hemorrhage inside by his neck and the blood was going down into his chest cavity, so there was internal bleeding from around his neck, and then the blood was pooling in his chest.”

Later, during cross examination, defense attorney Barry Zimmer followed up with Kruse about that moment in the hospital.

“Was he still breathing?” Zimmer inquired.

“I don’t know if he was still breathing,” Kruse responded, “or if the machine was breathing for him.”

He added, “His body was alive.” 

The videos

Photograph by Scott Thomas Anderson

‘C.y.B.’ was pronounced dead on February 5, 2024.

Kruse ultimately met with Dr. Evan Matshes, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy. The doctor informed Kruse that the cause of death was “mechanical asphyxiation,” and that the manner of death was homicide.

By this time, Roseville police had served a search warrant for all of the Blakley’s Ring videos. One detective combing through images in a recovered cache file was Kelly Sibbitt. He was a major witness at the April preliminary hearing.

Sibbitt testified that videos were rolling throughout the house on the evening that ‘C.y.B.’ was killed in a struggle that lasted between 5:05 p.m. and 5:53 p.m.   

With Sibbitt providing a commentary, the videos were played in the courtroom. According to transcripts, the images show Kimberly Blakley striking ‘C.y.B.’ multiple times on his backside and sitting on top of him on the couch. The child was 55 inches tall and 83 pounds. Kimberly is five-feet, seven-inches tall and weighs 210 pounds. Between audio recordings and interviews with the victim’s siblings, police knew that ‘C.y.B.’ was screaming “Stop mom!” and “I can’t breathe!”  

“He is face down,” Sibbitt said of the manner in which ‘C.y.B.’ was trapped below Kimberly. “It looks like [his] lower extremity twists and moves it – moves somewhere at the hips … It would be somewhere between 44 and 48 minutes … [for] maybe two, three minutes, he can faintly be heard, and, to me, the breathing sounds labored, and that is the last that I can hear him in any of the videos … I know that around then, ‘C.y.B.’ is fading.” 

Sibbitt told the judge that, at one point, Kimberly can be heard telling her other children that ‘C.y.B.’ is “pretending to be hurt” and that he’s “faking it.”

Braden turned his attention to a specific video feed. “What can defendant Kimberly be seen doing in that video?” he asked.

“In that video, she can be seen walking up the stairs,” Sibbitt noted. “She’s carrying ‘C.y.B’. His body is limp and offers little to no resistance.”

The testimony turned to what Cory Blakley was doing while all this was happening. “What you describe his demeanor as like during those videos?” Braden asked the detective.

“I would describe it as nonchalant, kind of the normal behavior of cooking and existing in your house,” Sibbitt said.  

“During those videos, did he ever turn towards the living room?”

“On numerous occasions, yes,” Sibbitt said.

“And what was his demeanor like when he looked towards the living room?”

“Nonchalant, laid back,” the detective replied. “On one occasion, he’s leaning on the counter drinking a beverage … I think it’s a Monster energy drink.”

“Did he appear to be concerned with anything outside the kitchen?” Braden inquired.

“Prior to 5:53 p.m., and outside of the kitchen, I did not observe anything where Cory appeared to be concerned,” Sibbitt responded.  

“In that video, does defendant Kimberly make a request of defendant Cory?

“She does,” Sibbitt affirmed.

“What was that request?”

“She states, ‘You need to get rid of the video.’”

The other children

Photograph by David Clarke

Following the revelations in the house, some of the victim’s siblings were brought to Placer County’s Multi-Disciplinary Interview Center, which provides authorities with a coordinated investigation for child abuse cases. The team speaking with the kids included a child forensic interview specialist, as well as Detective Kruse and Placer County District Attorney’s Investigator Justin Infante.

According to testimony, one of the children, an 11-year-old girl, acknowledged that Kimberly Blakley had coached her with a specific story to tell when questioned by investigators.

“She told the interviewer that her mom – Kimberly – had told her to say that ‘C.y.B.’ was flailing around and acting crazy,” Kruse told the judge, “but then she told [the interviewer] that wasn’t true.”    

Kruse added, “She heard [the victim] yelling that he couldn’t breathe and that she heard him taking very, like, labored breaths, and she demonstrated what those breaths sounded like in the interview.”

At one point, that child also discussed a different incident that had happened between Kimberly and ‘C.y.B.’ prior to his death.

“She said she watched as her mother had sat on ‘C.y.B.’ on a bench and then had him raise his hands above his head and grab a rail, and then her mother, Kimberly, punched ‘C.y.B.’ several times in the groin,” Kruse testified. “And that was as a result, apparently, of ‘C.y.B.’ having punched someone at school in a similar spot; and so [the witness] heard Kimberly say, since he was punching some other kid in the groin, she was doing to dole out the same punishment to him … she had him sit on the bench and then spread his legs apart.”

The girl was asked whether she’d been physically abused in the house: She reportedly told investigators that Kimberly had grabbed her by her face once on the staircase, and caused her mouth to bleed.  

Kruse also mentioned that the girl had shared other ways Kimberly had coached her, specifically when it came to what she was supposed to say if other kids noticed she’d been hurt at her mother’s hands.

“She would question them on what the kids were going to tell their friends and school, and told them to tell the other kids that they fell down the stairs as a reason they were injured,” Kruse observed.

D.A. investigator Infante testified that one of the other children had revealed that the fatal encounter between Kimberly Blakley and ‘C.y.B.’ was trigged by him playing with one of his siblings and not “cleaning up.”

Detectives and prosecutors also assert that a careful review of evidence in the case indicates that ‘C.y.B.’ had recently told his classmates that the family’s dogs had died and that he had been tasking with moving the dogs’ bodies – and that Kimberly was allegedly lashing out because she thought the boy’s story would cause Child Protective Services to visit her house.   

The full picture  

Cory and Kimberly Blakley.

Kimberly and Cory Blakley were initially charged with murdering a nine-year-old; causing cruel and extreme suffering for sadistic purposes or revenge against a nine-year-old; harming a child in a manner that caused brain injury or paralysis; felony child neglect; five counts of cruelty to a child, and five counts of dissuading a child witness.

Braden made the final case to Placer County Judge Jeffrey Penney for why Kimberly Blakley should be bound over for a jury trial.

“She sat on a child’s chest that weighed 83 pounds, on a cushion, and repeatedly beat him for approximately 40 minutes – beat him until he no longer made a sound,” Braden stressed. “Repeatedly throughout the videos you hear that she is continually beating ‘C.y.B.’, stating that she is not changing her position … We have seen the videos where she is sitting on the couch. Clearly [the victim’s] chest is underneath her buttocks, his legs are on the ground, and she beats him as he tries to break free of the position that he’s in. There are moments in the video where he begs her to stop, telling her that he cannot breathe. She continues, does not stop, and even threatens to shove something in his mouth.” 

Prosecutor Ow made the argument for why Cory Blakley was equally responsible for the child’s suffering and death.

“I don’t know what’s worse, watching it or hearing it,” Ow reflected. “You can hear the child gasping for air. You can hear the force of the strikes being inflicted on him … and throughout, at least at the start of this beating, you can hear ‘C.y.B.’ apologizing to his mom when asked to do so, screaming out that he cannot breathe, being struck as a result of the screaming. You can hear mother taunting him, and you can watch dad as he putters around in the kitchen drinking his soda … In this case, the defendant had a legal duty to act.”

Ow added, “But from my perspective, what is most appalling about Cory’s inaction was the length of time he failed to act, his proximity to the crime happening, and his utter nonchalance, as it was described, his attitude as his child was dying in front of his eyes.”

When the defense made its closing arguments, Zimmerman contended that Kimberly and Cory shouldn’t be held equally culpable.

“Well, the People concede that Cory Blakley is not the actual killer,” Zimmerman pointed out. “We have heard no evidence that he, as an aider and abettor, had an intent to kill … He’s picking the kids up from school. These kids are ultimately vetted to this family by the county of Placer because they’re foster kids and they’re together for years, as far as anyone knows, and there’s no instance of Cory Blakley being aware of the danger that Kimberly would impose to ‘C.y.B.’ or anyone else.”

Judge Penny held both Kimberly and Cory Blakley to answer for murder, causing cruel and extreme pain to a child, and felony child abuse that caused brain damage. Additionally, Kimberly was also held to answer on two counts of dissuading a child witness, while Cory was held to answer on three counts of dissuading a child witness.  

The couples’ jury trails are expected to happen later this year. 

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1 Comment on "Behind closed doors: Details emerge on child murder that shook Roseville"

  1. That poor child. I hope he’s finally at peace. His abusers can rot in prison (PC of course since other inmates don’t take kindly to child killers).

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