Photo by Butch Meriwether.
KINGMAN – First-degree murder defendant Al Blanco pleaded not guilty Monday in Mohave County Superior Court to new felony charges of concealment of a dead body and tampering with evidence in the case of murdered real estate agent Sidney Cranston Jr.
Judge Steven Conn, who took over the case after Judge Billy Sipe recused himself, set bond at $50,000 for the new charges, though that was more of a court formality than a realistic possibility.
Blanco, who was arrested Jan. 11, is already being held without bond on the first-degree murder charge to which he pleaded not guilty at a Jan. 26 arraignment. Conn set a case management conference for 10 a.m. March 20.
Codefendant Bill Sanders, indicted as an accomplice to the murder, also pleaded not guilty before Judge Conn Monday morning to charges of concealment of a dead body and tampering with evidence.
His case is set for a management conference at the same time as Blanco’s on March 20.
Conn advised Blanco to start discussing the case with his defense attorney, Robin Puchek. The state will disclose its evidence at the March 20 hearing.
Blanco, 61, is accused of killing Cranston on or about June 19, 2015 and burying his body on a ranch east of Kingman. Cranston was missing for 19 months before authorities discovered his remains on Jan. 7.
The Mohave County Attorney’s Office has not yet determined if it will seek the death penalty in the case. Other options are life in prison and life with the possibility of parole if the state seeks a conviction for felony murder, and not premeditated murder.
Blanco worked as a handyman and property manager for Cranston, who owned 43 properties in the area. He had collected about $1,600 in rent when he last met with Cranston.
Sanders, 54, who has known Blanco for many years, eventually led FBI agents to the body. He allegedly told detectives that Blanco shot Cranston with a shotgun inside a home on Wilson Ranch Road.
Sanders is free on his own recognizance, and was protected by two undercover Sheriff’s deputies at Monday’s hearing.