Daniel Joseph Blank


Daniel Joseph Blank

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Crime spree fueled by his gambling addiction
Number of victims: 6
Date of murders: 1996 - 1997
Date of arrest: November 14, 1997
Date of birth: 1962
Victims profile: Victor Rossi, 41 / Barbara Bourgeois, 58 / Lillian Philippe, 71 / Sam Arcuri, 76, and his wife, Louella, 69 / Joan Brock, 55
Method of murder: Beating - Stabbing with knife
Location: Louisiana, USA
Status: Sentenced to death in 1999. Overturned. Sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2001

Convicted serial killer Daniel Blank pleads guilty to murder; avoids new trial

July 09, 2009

Convicted serial killer Daniel Blank, currently in prison serving a life sentence, appeared in court in Edgard this morning and pleaded guilty to the first degree murder of a LaPlace woman in 1997.

Blank, who was granted a new trial in 2006 because of a clerical error during court procedures in Avoyelles parish in 2000, entered the plea in exchange for the life sentence.

The St. John the Baptist Parish district attorney's office was seeking the death penalty for Blank in the beating death of Joan Brock, a 55-year old LaPlace woman he murdered in her backyard.

Daniel Blank

October 19, 2000

Louisiana serial killer Daniel Blank was formally sentenced to death by lethal injection for the May 14, 1997, murder of 55-year-old LaPlace resident, Joan Brock. Last April Blank was found guilty of stabbing Brock in her back yard and leaving her to die.

Blank is accused of killing six River Parishes residents during a 10-month crime spree between 1996 and 1997 fueled by his gambling addiction. He has already been sentenced to death for one murder and has three more trials pending.

Daniel Blank

September 1, 1999

Jurors in the first degree murder trial of acussed serial killer Daniel Blank saw him confess on videotape to attacking victim Lillian Phillipe with a trophy or a lamp she had tried to use to defend herself after he broke into her home. The jury watched Blank describe how Phillipe, 71, hit him with the object in the back.

"I grabbed it and then I pushed her and she came back up, and that's when I hit her with it and I just went out of it," Blank said on the tape recorded by St. Martin Parish sheriff's detectives. Blank, a 37-year-old Paulina mechanic, is charged with six slayings across the River Parishes.

Prosecutors say he killed during robberies to fuel a gambling habit. Blank is set to stand trial at later dates in the murders of Joan Brock, 58, of LaPlace; Barbara Bourgeois, 58, of Paulina; Victor Rossi, 41, of St. Amant; and Sam Arcuri 76, and his wife, Louella, 69, of LaPlace.

Mechanic Held in Series of Killings

Police in Louisiana Say Gambling Habit Motivated Suspect

November 17, 1997

LaPLACE, La.— At the Airline Motors lunch counter in sugar-cane country, a rifle-shot away from the muddy churn of the Mississippi River, the talk about Daniel J. Blank is as straightforward as the food served here: he was a gifted mechanic, a quiet customer with deep blue eyes, a family man who drank his coffee black.

But last week Mr. Blank was jailed, arrested on three charges of first-degree murder. The local authorities said he had confessed to six murders, including a double bludgeoning of an elderly couple just across the street from the diner.

His arrest, a big event in a town that often goes a year without a killing, stirred the memory of a waitress, Gloria Vicknair. Only a few months ago, Mr. Blank, the son of a sugar-refinery worker, emerged from the video poker stall in the back of the restaurant and asked her to change two crisp $100 bills, a lot of money for a man who usually ordered only black coffee.

Ms. Vicknair said she made the change but thought nothing of it. ''They say it's always the quiet ones that'll surprise you -- he was extra quiet,'' she said after the arrest was announced. ''Of course, I was lucky. He went after wealthy people. I work for a living, thank God.''

A quest for the big win and lust for a piece of the American dream, the police said, was what drove Mr. Blank to kill six elderly residents within 20 miles of his family's home in the River Parishes, a water-bound stretch of chemical plants and sugar cane between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Most of the dead were elderly; most were found in their homes with their pockets turned inside out. Nearly all had at least a nodding acquaintance with Mr. Blank. One couple survived being beaten and shot, Leonce Millet Jr. and his wife, Joyce, both 66, of Gonzales.

The authorities said Mr. Blank had killed to feed a gambling habit. He favored slot machines and video poker, acquaintances said, and visited many different gambling parlors.

Toward the end of his suspected string of killings, Sheriff Wayne Jones of St. John the Baptist Parish said, it became apparent that Mr. Blank was either on an extraordinarily lucky streak or was up to no good. The authorities estimate that he had stolen as much as $200,000, much of which he was believed to have squandered at the casinos.

''He was without question a gambling addict,'' Sheriff Jones said. ''I guess you could say his income didn't quite correspond with his life style.''

He has confessed to these murders, the authorities said, which occurred between October 1996 and June 1997: Victor Rossi, 41, of St. Amant; Barbara Bourgeois, 58, of Paulina; Lillian Philippe, 71, of Gonzales; Sam Arcuri, 76, and his wife, Louella, 69, of LaPlace, and Joan Brock, 55, of LaPlace. Mr. Blank is to be arraigned in LaPlace on Monday.

The police have given little information about the case, saying only that a tip had led to the arrest. But their relief is obvious.

''It was the first homicide we had experienced since 1986,'' Chief Bill Landry of Gonzales said. ''We weren't prepared. We had to retrain ourselves.'' His office handled three of the cases -- one murder in April and a double murder attempt in July.

Acquaintances and family members said that since the killings began late last year, Mr. Blank had lived at a notch or two above transient status, making three moves in the River Parishes and then moving in the summer to a small resort town in eastern Texas. Mr. Blank was taken into custody in Onalaska, Tex., on Friday, about four months after he reportedly tried to buy a four-bay automobile repair shop there for $65,000 in cash.

During this time, Mr. Blank periodically appeared at his boyhood home, a jumble of trailers and frame structures in Paulina, west of LaPlace, to report on his new fortune.

Once, Mr. Blank, known as Bone to his family, wheeled into the dusty yard on a shiny red Suzuki motorcycle.

On two other occasions, he arrived with huge cardboard copies of checks from casinos in nearby Kenner and Baton Rouge. The checks, payable to Daniel Blank, totaled $33,000. ''Daniel went to casinos pretty often,'' said Mr. Blank's sister, Sally Blank, a 34-year-old cosmetology student and one of eight siblings. ''He said he won big, and he showed us the papers to prove it. He told us they took his picture at the casino.''

Sally Blank said the family had taken her brother at his word and had been shocked by his arrest. Her brother had been in trouble before, Ms. Blank said, but not since he was a teen-ager.

''He burned down a building when he was a teen-ager and had to go to reform school,'' Ms. Blank said. 'But a lot of teen-agers get in trouble. I don't think he did it. At least not all alone, not all by himself.''

Mr. Blank had apparently been living quietly in Onalaska, a small town a few hours from Houston, in a double-wide trailer with his wife, Cindy, and their four children. He was working as a mechanic out of a former muffler shop he leased from Don Evans, a retiree in Onalaska.

''What happened was the mayor referred him to me, said he was looking to buy a piece of property,'' Mr. Evans said. ''I leased him the shop, although he did offer to buy it. Said he'd pay me $65,000 in cash.

''That kind of scared me,'' Mr. Evans said. ''I refused.''

Mr. Evans said he was later told by his 12-year-old daughter, a friend of Mr. Blank's 12-year-old daughter, that Mr. Blank had made a fortune playing video poker machines.

To Mr. Evans, Mr. Blank was an expert mechanic. ''I've been at this for 35 years,'' Mr. Evans said, ''and just from talking to him I knew he must have been born and raised a mechanic. That boy knew transmissions inside and out.

''I don't know about all that gambling nonsense. It seemed to me he was interested in being successful in business and living in a way he'd never been able to as a kid.''

The problem was, Mr. Evans said, Mr. Blank was nearly broke when the Louisiana and Texas authorities surrounded his trailer on Friday.

Among the items recovered, according to news accounts from Texas, was a cane-cutting knife, apparently smeared with blood and hair.

Mr. Evans locked the repair shop after Mr. Blank's arrest. As he went through the jumbled contents of the office, he said, he came across the latest bank statement for Daniel's Automotive.

''He had $123 in it, and 11 cars in the lot waiting to be repaired,'' Mr. Evans said.

''Thank God they arrested him,'' Mr. Evans said. ''I'll tell you what, I think he was just about ready to do it again.''