Surveillance photo from the AM/PM on Tamarack in Carlsbad shows a man with a backpack.
This story appeared first on March 20 in the print edition of the Reader. Author Eva Knott updated the story on May 29.
In a ten-minute hearing on May 28, defendant Jay Alexander Terry, 37, pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter using a deadly weapon, a knife. In exchange for the plea, prosecutor Brock Arstill dropped a charge of first-degree murder, and agreed to a five-year prison term. When he accepted the plea deal, Judge Robert Kearney remarked that “There were significant self-defense issues,” and he set June 25 as the date for sentencing.
Eduardo put a chain around the front doors of the convenience store so he could go to the back for a break. “Because there are a lot of homeless people out at night,” he explained. He was working the overnight shift at the AM/PM store of the Arco gasoline station in Carlsbad. The store is open 24 hours.
It was just after 1 am on July 10, 2019 when Eduardo took his break. It was a mild night, 67 degrees and no wind. The usual number of transients were out and about. Then, “I heard the chain rattling and I looked... Some guy tried to open the door; he tried to get inside.”
Eduardo said he saw a skinny man at the doors wearing a backpack. And then a man ran up. He “had no shirt on.”
Surveillance video from AM/PM showed a shirtless man running toward the other man, about 1 am that day.
The man wearing the backpack ran away and the shirtless man chased him. The two men ended up in the middle of Tamarack Avenue. Eduardo could see them swinging fists at each other. And then the man with the backpack ran away, passing through the parking lot next to the AM/PM. The shirtless man remained standing in the street for a minute or so, and then he dropped.
Eduardo remembered seeing the shirtless man fall to the ground. “He only fell once.” Eduardo testified in court later, “At first I thought he got knocked out. I called the cops.”
After cops arrived, they reviewed footage from the gas station’s surveillance cameras with Eduardo. When he testified, Eduardo confirmed the time stamps on the video. It was 1:12 am when the first man appeared, moving towards the front doors of the AM/PM. It was 1:16 when he rattled the chained doors, trying to get inside. It was 1:17 when the shirtless man appeared and he chased the first man. It was 1:18 when Eduardo phoned 911.
At 1:20, the shirtless man dropped to the ground in the street.
He was still breathing when Carlsbad police arrived, but he was non-responsive. There was a lot of blood, especially from two wounds in his abdomen. The mortally wounded man was taken to hospital and pronounced deceased at 1:55 am. He was identified as 35-year-old Eric John Blackstock. He had “no known address.”
Police looked but did not find any weapons on the wounded man, nor any near him in the street.
Next to the Arco gasoline station is the abandoned Stag & Lion.
Police circulated still photos taken from the AM/PM surveillance video. Officer Casey Monahan first identified the man with the backpack. He believed it was another homeless man named Jay Terry. “I remembered that Jay had a girlfriend with very blonde hair,” he said. “They were always together. And they had a black pit bull-type dog.”
Carlsbad police quickly put this information out to other law enforcement.
Jonathan Kislingbury has been with the Oceanside Harbor Police for 26 years. He patrols the beaches of Oceanside by land and by water. On July 10, 2019, he was in a patrol vehicle on the streets about 4:39 am when he got a description of a white male walking with a blonde female and a black pit bull dog, supposedly traveling north along the coast.
Officer Kislingbury positioned himself along a likely stretch of beach and spotted the threesome at 4:50 am. He was in the 100 block of South Pacific Street when the man, woman, and dog came up a stairwell from the boardwalk below, right in front of his patrol car. This was about four miles from the site of the deadly confrontation in Carlsbad.
Ronald Dement has been with Carlsbad police for 13 years. He interviewed both the male suspect and his female companion at police headquarters that morning. The male suspect was confirmed to be 36-year-old Jay Terry. Officer Dement said he first spoke with the 35-year-old blonde. She told him they were walking to Oceanside to get a hotel room and they just wanted to go to bed. She had been dating Terry, her boyfriend, for seven years, and they had become homeless about a year and a half ago. She said this past year was especially hard. One time, she testified, when her boyfriend was sick, he “back-handed her.” But just that once, she insisted.
When officer Dement testified in court six months after the interview, he remembered the blonde said that she was “on the verge of breaking up with Mr. Terry for good this time.”
Bloody knife recovered by Carlsbad police in bushes at the edge of the parking lot.
The blonde said she had a phone and her boyfriend did not and that this made it hard to find each other again whenever they became separated. So they wasted a lot of time trying to meet up. It was frustrating. She said last night she went to the Stag & Lion on Tamarack Avenue just west of Interstate 5, trying to find her boyfriend. That was an abandoned building where they often spent the night. Once it had been a pub, but now it was popular with homeless. And it was conveniently next to the Arco station’s AM/PM mini-mart.
The blonde said she was walking toward the Stag & Lion when she saw a man sitting on a curb there. She had known him for about two weeks; she had seen him maybe four times altogether. He called himself Thor and Odin. Those were his street names for himself. (No one knew him by his real name: Eric Blackstock.)
The blonde said this man, Thor Odin, had declared his love for her. And he described himself as a Greek god. She described him as “ripped” or “buff” and “much bigger” than her boyfriend.
The blonde said there had been flirting between the two of them, flirting which may have led to a tense interaction between her boyfriend Terry and Thor Odin. It happened when the buff man asked for a cigarette. When Terry held out a cigarette toward Thor Odin, the larger man violently smacked away his hand.
When the cop spoke separately with Terry, he confirmed the story. “He is always just so aggressive,” the boyfriend said. “One time he asked me for a cigarette, and I only had half a cigarette and I said, “Here,” and he just slapped it out of my hand.”
The man with the backpack said that on the night of July 10, 2019 at about 1 am, “I was trying to go to my camp, that is what I was trying to do.” He said he lived on the roof of the Stag & Lion.
Terry knew Thor Odin as an unpredictable, violent man, and he was trying to avoid him. He was trying to sneak up to his “camping” place, but when he saw Thor Odin talking with his girlfriend, he gave up trying not to be seen.
Terry and the blonde both told police that Terry demanded to know what Thor Odin had said. And he replied, “You’re a punk bitch.”
Then Terry pulled out a pool cue stick which kept in his backpack. (Terry explained that he carried the pool stick to use as a cane, because he had an abscess on his foot.) He said tried to “fend off” the self-styled Greek god with the stick, though his girlfriend had the impression he intended to hit Thor Odin in the head with it. In any case, Thor Odin easily took away the pool cue and tossed it aside. Officers later found the it in the parking lot.
The blonde went to tie up her pit bull, because it became agitated. Terry said he tried to escape from Thor Odin. Terry ran across the parking lot toward the AM/PM mini mart. “He wouldn’t leave me alone. I was running away from him, and he wouldn’t stop chasing me.”
Terry said Thor Odin caught him by his shirt collar in the street and punched him in the side of his head three times. (“I did not see any obvious bruising or swelling or redness to that temple,” Officer Dement testified later.)
During the police interview, Terry explained that he “open-carried” a knife in a sheath on his hip, because he lived on the street and needed protection. Terry said he stabbed his attacker once, but that it didn’t do anything to stop him, “He just kept coming after me.” Terry guessed he stabbed his attacker perhaps three times, total.
Officer Dement found a bloody knife in a hedge bordering the parking lot of the Stag & Lion. The knife was resting in the bushes at eye level, as if someone had carefully placed it there, Dement said. The knife was made to cut insulation, and is something that can be bought at Home Depot stores, according to the cop.
Dr. Steven Campman is a forensic pathologist for the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office. He found multiple stab wounds and shallow cuts on Blackstock. The doctor said four of the stab wounds were particularly life-threatening: to the liver, to the abdomen, to the ribs, and to the left armpit.
A toxicology test showed THC and alcohol in the deceased man’s blood.
Defense attorney Patricia Valdovinos asserted that it was a case of self-defense. She said her client, Jay Terry, has been jumped and beaten up and has suffered a lot of concussions during his life on the street. “Mister Terry truly thought his life was in danger.”
The attorney said there are witnesses who knew Thor Odin as a full-blown alcoholic who frequently ripped off his shirt and challenged others to fight. He screamed at random people; he always had a black eye or cut on his face from recent violence.
Valdovinoes painted Blackstock as a violent criminal by referring to his record, including a 2015 conviction for assault with great bodily injury.
Judge Brad Weinreb declared that a jury should decide the facts of the case. Jay Alexander Terry, now 37, pleads not-guilty to first degree murder and is held without bail. His trial is set for March 24, 2020.