By Bruce A. Smith
Manny Silva, the father of Lisa Melancon, a Tacoma woman killed in 2011 during a drive-by shooting, contacted the Mountain News this week to describe the impacts of his daughter’s murder. His testimony reveals how vast and devastating such violence can be to an entire family.
Lisa Melancon was killed in the evening of July 22, 2010 as a neighborhood disturbance grew unruly among teenagers and young adults. In the melee, one man, Jimi Blakeney, fired three rounds from a handgun, with one shot hitting Melancon – standing on her front porch – and killing her. Blakeney was subsequently convicted of first-degree homicide and sentenced to 61 years in prison, with ten on those years being tacked on because he did not apologize to the family at the time of sentencing.
However, Blakeney has issued an apology to the Melancon and Silva families from prison, using the pages of the Mountain News for that purpose in 2018. The link below shows the apology, and gives links to the stories on Lisa Melancon’s death and Jimi’s conviction.
Nevertheless, the death of Lisa Melancon was more than the loss of one beloved woman. It seems to have blown her entire family apart. Mr. Silva described his family as being “tight-knit” before the shooting, and that Lisa would spend weekly dinners with him and his wife, Kathy Silva, at their home in the Tacoma area. Yet, when Lisa was killed, her mother went into a deep depression and could not continue her work at Tacoma General Hospital.
“Without her income,” Mr. Silva told the Mountain News, “we lost our home.” Silva said he was able to continue his own work at the Social Security Administration, but his pay checks were insufficient to carry the financial burdens alone. “But I was lucky. I had a boss who let me cry in her office 3-5 times a week.”
Mr. Silva also said that his wife was able to take early retirement from Tacoma General, and afterwards they relocated to Arizona.
“We’re still in therapy, though,” Mr. Silva said, adding that he had to leave the Tacoma area because he “couldn’t drive down those roads every day.” Silva also said that his son and another daughter continue to process this traumatic incident in therapy.
In addition, Lisa Melancon’s husband, Joe, also has left the area, relocating to Arkansas. Presumably, his son and daughter with Lisa have also moved there. However, the Mountain News has been unable to reach Mr. Melancon at his new location. Along those lines, Mr. Silva said that Joe Melancon “has moved on. Afterall, he’s a young man.”
Additionally, Mr. Silva wanted the Mountain News to know the character of his daughter Lisa, and the true nature of his loss. “My daughter was beautiful. She was a fabulous kid.” He described her as a “hard-charging, tax-paying mom,” who loved her community and tried to make it a better place. “She helped found the Tacoma Care Program, which works in blighted neighborhoods in Tacoma and East Tacoma and tries to clean them up.”
In addition, Lisa was a well-respected Code Enforcement Officer for the City of Tacoma. As a sign of that respect, the City put its flags at half-mast for her, and allowed the family to use the Tacoma Dome for the funeral.
Despite the years and tears – and the therapy – Mr. Silva is still angry. “Why isn’t my daughter’s murderer held to a higher level of accountability,” he asked me in our phone interview. When I questioned him what that might look like, he demurred, and then talked about some of the specifics of the case.
“What really gets me pissed off is that Blakeney fled to my hometown – Sacramento – after he killed Lisa. That’s where I grew up!”
Regarding the apology that Blakeney has offered, Mr. Silva was skeptical. “That apology has no merit. He’s just a convict trying to win favors for his parole hearing. Where was that apology eight years ago when I begged him for it?”
At the sentencing hearing in 2011, Mr. Silva said that he looked into Blakeney’s eyes and saw “he didn’t even have a soul,” adding that he begged him for an apology on camera, and that Blakeney “didn’t say anything. Not a word.”
Silva also has little regard for Mr. Blakeney and the judicial system, currently, especially Jimi’s 2018 marriage – while incarcerated – to a woman in North Carolina. “He got married? How did that happen? …Ahh, I guess the law is the law.”
As for his current state of mind, Mr. Silva is of two minds. At one point he said he’s “moved on” and at others he claims he hasn’t, saying, “I can’t forgive those acts.” But he said that his wife, Kathy, “has moved on,” along with his grandson, who states that he has forgiven Mr. Blakeney. “I’m glad he can forgive him,” said Silva, “but I can’t.”
Nevertheless, Mr. Silva stressed that his religious beliefs and his relationship with his local Jehovah Witnesses community have been vital in maintaining his strength and well-being. “We have the Lord, and he helps us get through this.