KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A notorious criminal family adds another killer to their list of felon relatives. The Blair family is a well-known crime family in Kansas City. Last week Diamond Blair, nephew of serial killer Terry Blair, was convicted of second-degree murder.
At 37 years old, Diamond Blair has spent nearly half of his life behind bars. At the age of 16 he was sentenced to 18 years for multiple crimes including robbery and kidnapping. Blair is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence for a felon in possession of a firearm conviction. Now he’s been convicted of second-degree murder.
He is the fifth family member in over three decades to be convicted of serious violent crimes. Other members of the family have been accused but not convicted.
“Which would lead me to believe that this is the kind of behavior that was learned through the years,” said Criminal Justice Professor at Park University, John Hamilton.
This Kansas City family of felons begins in the 1970s with Janice Blair, who prosecutors say killed her drug-dealing boyfriend. Over the next two decades, two of Janice’s 10 children were convicted of murder. One of them, Terry Blair, the notorious serial killer convicted of murdering six women along Prospect Avenue in 2004. A third of Janice’s sons is serving two life terms plus 240 years for kidnapping and forcible sodomy.
“Maybe they didn’t know any other way of life,” said Criminal Defense Attorney, John Picerno.
Hamilton, who spent 27 years with the Kansas City Police Department and now studies criminal behavior, said there are many theories as to why violence may run in the family. One is the biological theory.
“The biological theory basically says that this is genetic — that people are wired for these kinds of behaviors,” Hamilton said. “You might be more predisposed to becoming involved in those kinds of things.”
Another is that criminal behavior is learned.
“We’re really born as a blank slate so we aren’t going to be one way or the other,” he said. “But who we associate with, who we attach to is whose behavior we tend to model and copy. In this case, you may learn a behavior and the purpose is that I get reinforced for it. I become a hero. People fear me. I become powerful. I gain things, I get respect — whatever it might be.”
Either way, Picerno, who represented Janice Blair’s grandson Diamond Blair on a weapons charge, said even as a kid, Diamond never had a shot.
“Being from a criminal defense attorney and being a father who’s raised two kids and just being a member of society, I don’t think anyone would want anyone else to grow up in the conditions that he grew up in,” he said.
Even Hamilton says growing up in a subculture of violence may make it tough for anyone.
“You learn that violence is the way to respond to conflict. Often it’s a way of survival,” he said.
“One thing that the public does not understand about people who commit crimes and the question about crime families is that generally these are, generally nice people,” Picerno said. “They really are. In each family there is good and bad and there is mean and there’s not so mean. And there’s leaders and there’s followers. But I think the most surprising thing to people who don’t deal with it on a daily basis is some of these people are generally very nice people that do often, do very nice things for other people that you would never know about. Unfortunately, they’ve chosen to do one or more criminal acts to get by with.”
Hamilton says figuring out how to change this behavior for future generations is the million dollar question.