Students of murdered Austin choir teacher still seeking justice

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- Three years after the murder of local beloved singer and choir instructor Kathy Blair, former students of the victim say they want justice for her death -- as they continue waiting for a trial in her case.

Blair, 53, was found dead inside her northwest Austin home in the 4600 block of Tamarack Trail on Dec. 6, 2014.

"It was just kind of stunning and shocking and for a while, we couldn't believe it," said Thomas Umstattd, Jr., one of her former choir students. "And it's still hard to believe that she's not there."

Those who knew the professionally-acclaimed singer say she spent the last 20 years of her life teaching children the art of music. Before her death, Blair took over the Christian Choral Society of Austin, a high-level music program for home-school students. Each year, she taught 250 to 300 students.

"When you're grieving, one of the biggest things you want is closure and when there's a murder, you don't really have closure until you understand 'who,' and I don't feel like we can really know 'who' until there's been a trial," added Umstattd.

He said justice delayed is justice denied, adding, "What we have is excuses, and I'm tired of getting excuses."

Although the Travis Co. District Attorney's Office would not comment on the case directly Wednesday since the trial has not yet begun, we were told that DNA testing and retesting was a majority of the reason for the delay.

Austin police said Shawn Gant-Benalcazar, 33, entered Blair's home with the intent to burglarize it. Blair was asleep at the time. According to court documents, Gant-Benalcazar told police he stabbed Blair in the neck when she woke up and "lunged" at him. Gant-Benalcazar is charged with capital murder.

Authorities also arrested and charged Timothy Parlin, 51, in connection with the burglary leading up to Blair's death.

The two suspects remain in Travis County Jail awaiting trials for their charges. Both men have spent the past three years there.

Retired Judge Charlie Baird says DNA delays are unacceptable and costly, arguing the county should hire more independent labs to get the job done faster. "Both sides deserve a speedy trial," he said.

Shortly after Blair's death, police linked the two men to the burglary and subsequent murders of an elderly couple.

"We are very confident that the suspects you see before you are absolutely responsible for all three homicides," Police Chief Art Acevedo said at the time.

Billie, 83, and Sidney Shelton, 85, were found dead Dec. 15, 2014 inside their home in the 1700 block of Brentwood Street, across from Brentwood Elementary School, just days after Blair was found dead in her home.

According to the DA's office, Gant-Benalcazar's capital murder trial is expected to go before a jury in January. That trial only addresses Blair's murder.

Parlin is expected to be tried in connection to all three murders -- Billie and Sidney Shelton's murders, along with Blair's -- in March.

To take a look at a photo gallery of Kathy Blair during her career, click here.

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