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Accused serial killer said he’d left Louisiana to escape high crime

November 17, 1997

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Police say Daniel J. Blank told them that he was a serial killer who stabbed, bludgeoned or shot six people _ bosses, neighbors, and customers _ to pay for his gambling habit.

Folks in the piney woods town of Onalaska, Texas, say Blank told them he’d moved there last summer to get himself, his wife and their four kids away from crime.

Sheriffs of the three parishes where Blank, 35, lived until a few months ago, say he has admitted killing six people and trying to kill two others since October 1996. Most were well off, and in their 60s and 70s.

So are a lot of people in Onalaska.

``This is basically a retirement community where people come to get away from the city and crime,″ Mayor Jeanne Ann Byrd told The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune. ``We go without murders for 20 years. He seemed like a nice man.″

Blank was arrested Friday in Onalaska on one murder charge and was taken to St. John the Baptist Parish jail. The sheriffs of St. John, St. James and Ascension parishes say he will be charged with six murders and two attempted murders.

Those are:

_Victor Rossi, 41, beaten to death at his home in St. Amant on Oct. 27, 1996. Blank had worked at Rossi’s car repair shop.

_Barbara Bourgeois, 58, of Paulina, stabbed to death March 18 at her home, a quarter-mile from Blank’s.

_Lillian Phillipe, 71, of Gonzales, stabbed to death in her home April 9. Blank bought car parts from the store that Phillipe’s husband had started.

_Sam Arcuri, 76, and Louella Arcuri, 69, bludgeoned to death in their LaPlace home May 9.

_Joan Brock, 55, beaten to death in the back yard of her LaPlace home May 14. Blank had worked at Brock’s husband’s car repair shop in Reserve.

_Leonce and Joyce Millet, both 66, beaten and shot inside their Gonzales home July 7. They survived.

A search of Blank’s house trailer turned up a machete with traces of blood and human hair on it, Polk County Sheriff Billy Ray Nelson Sr. said. He said the machete might have been used in some of the attacks, The Times-Picayune reported Sunday.

Nelson said Blank liked to gamble. Blank also told authorities during his confession that ``he wanted to have things he never could afford″ and might have taken as much as $200,000 from his victims.

Don Evans, who owns a car repair shop in Onalaska, said Blank wanted to buy it for $65,000, cash.

``I felt something funny when he said he wouldn’t have had any problem coming up with $65,000 cold cash. Their kids said their dad had made a lot of money from video poker,″ Evans told the newspaper Saturday. ``He was an excellent mechanic, though, an excellent transmission man.″

Evans, 63, said that instead of selling, he leased the store to Blank.

``But I’m worried it’s depreciated, being leased by a serial killer and all.″

Blank, one of eight children, grew up in Paulina, in rural St. James Parish. He was sent to a reform school when he was young, family members said.

Audrey Louque, a sister who lives in Gramercy, said the arrest stunned family members. ``He was always quiet,″ she said. ``He never got into trouble since he was in reform school.″

Ms. Louque said Blank was divorced from his first wife, and had two children from that marriage.

Next-door neighbors Penny and Mike Darling told the paper that the Blanks never tried to make friends or invite the Darlings’ children to play with theirs.

``I tried to make friends with him, but he was real rude,″ said Darling, 43. ``After a while, I figured they only wanted to be friends with elderly people. Those are the only people they were real nice to.″

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