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Blayson P. Fife

In a lengthy murder trial that will likely touch on an arsenal of guns, stacks of cash and an attempted flight to the border, prosecutors in Livingston Parish started Wednesday with the basics: how Walker resident Rick McBride died.

Testimony in the trial of first-degree murder suspect Blayson Fife, 20, began with evidence largely surrounding crime scene and medical findings about the victim, who was found deceased in his Pine Park Drive home July 23, 2017.

The District Attorney's Office alleges Fife had heard second-hand about an arsenal of guns and a pile of cash that McBride kept in his modest, secluded home, so he broke into the house to rob McBride of them.

Authorities say Fife scouted McBride's home multiple times in July 2017 before ultimately breaking in through a window to steal the guns. A codefendant, Joe Baluch, had told authorities that he and Fife saw McBride asleep on a recliner during the break-in. Baluch, 20, told investigators he then went outside to the car the pair had arrived in, and shortly after he heard gunshots.

Several rows of McBride's family and friends lined the Livingston Parish courtroom Wednesday, some wiping away tears and looking away as images of the victim were shown to the jury. Public defender Allen Harvey had argued that the images were too gruesome and possibly too prejudicial to be shown to the jury, but 21st Judicial District Judge Robert H. Morrison III allowed the prosecution to proceed.

East Baton Rouge Parish deputy coroner Karen Ross testified that it was difficult to determine McBride's time of death during an autopsy, but through the series of images she explained that he had four upper body gunshot wounds that indicated he was likely sitting down at the time of attack.

That theory was corroborated by State Police crime scene expert Michelle Cazes-Olinde, who through her testimony introduced crime scene images that appeared to indicate McBride was shot while sitting in a recliner in the home's master bedroom before stumbling down the hallway where he ultimately was found.

Ross said though McBride, 61, had advanced heart disease that could have exacerbated the impact of the gunshot wounds, the injuries were deemed to be the cause of death.

Court documents filed in the case before trial allege Fife returned to McBride's house twice after the shooting to steal more guns and check that McBride was dead. Several witnesses interviewed by police had said Fife had asked for rides to McBride's house to scout the place or commit the robbery, and afterward was bragging about the crime.

Fife then allegedly told friends he was leaving for California, but was picked up with three others by Border Patrol agents days later in Sierra Blanca, Texas, near El Paso. Two of McBride's guns were allegedly found in Fife's vehicle. At the time of his arrest, Fife was on probation for a string of burglaries in Livingston Parish. Baluch was arrested in Livingston Parish on July 26, 2017.

A number of codefendants was also charged in relation to the slaying, including juveniles, accused of aiding Fife by transporting him to and from McBride's house, or helping him flee Louisiana. 

The trial, expected to take a week, resumes Thursday at 9 a.m.

Email Emma Kennedy at ekennedy@theadvocate.com.