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From Bellush to Blackthorne

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 7, 2000

Federal prosecutors said the trail led from the body of Sheila Bellush through three men to her ex-husband, Allen Blackthorne. At his trial, they said they wanted to prove that he was the leader of the conspiracy.

  • JOSE LUIS DEL TORO JR.: Del Toro, 24, the hit man in the murder, was brought to Florida in July 1999 after fleeing to Mexico to avoid prosecution. Police lifted his fingerprints from her clothes dryer. Del Toro says he hit her twice but says a man named Jorge killed her. Del Toro, whose trial was to start Monday, pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder and burglary. He was immediately sentenced to two consecutive life sentences with no parole

  • SAMUEL GONZALES: Gonzales, 29, pleaded guilty to soliciting Bellush's murder. He says his friend, Daniel Alex Rocha, told him he had a golfing buddy who wanted a woman beaten up. For nearly $14,000, Gonzales says, he hired his cousin, Del Toro, for the job. Gonzales was sentenced to 19 years in prison.

  • DANIEL ALEX ROCHA: Rocha, 30, is convicted of first-degree murder. He says that while flying out to play golf with Blackthorne in Oregon, Blackthorne asked if Rocha knew somebody who would kill his ex-wife. Blackthorne wanted "to not only beat, but torture Sheila," Rocha says. Rocha is serving a life sentence but is cooperating with federal prosecutors in the hope of getting a deal.

  • ALLEN BLACKTHORNE: In January, more than two years after the murder, Blackthorne was charged with conspiring to commit a murder for hire and with arranging an act of domestic violence over state lines. Prosecutors say that Blackthorne, 45, was desperate for custody of his two daughters and that he had Bellush attacked so she would not be able to care for them. Blackthorne vehemently denied any involvement in the murder. But a federal jury decided he was guilty of both counts. He faces life in prison.

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