It’s been a long wait for Canton resident Calvin Young, whose 16-year-old daughter was found brutally murdered November 1999 alongside railroad tracks next to Nichols Middle School about a half-mile from her 630 W. Dinkins St. home.
Isisha Blackwell, a ninth-grader at Canton High School, had been stabbed 40 times with a screwdriver and knife. Her throat had been slashed.
Now, after more than four years, police have two suspects — sisters they believe are responsible for Blackwell’s death, Police Chief Robert Winn said Tuesday.
Santanya Riley, 20, and her sister, April, 19, are wanted by police, who believe they are somewhere in Madison County.
“We are attempting to serve the warrants right now with these individuals,” Winn said.
The five-year-old unsolved murder has burdened Young, who said he's glad to see the case moving forward after a long stall.
"I always wanted to know who did this before I left the world," he said. "I’m looking for them to get the death penalty. They took somebody from me that I loved.”
Winn said he isn’t sure about the motive.
“It may have had something to do with the fact that both of them (Blackwell and one of the Rileys) had been dating the same guy at one time," he said.
Described as a “quiet young lady” and “regular student,” Blackwell’s body was first discovered Nov. 17, 1999, by neighborhood children. A screwdriver police believe was used to murder Blackwell was found at the crime scene.
Young told police he had learned that his daughter told friends hours before her murder that she had been raped. Young said Blackwell’s absence was first noticed when she didn’t come to dinner at 6:30 p.m.
“She was a young girl and went places,” said Young, at the time of her death. “And I worked the late night shift from 3-11 p.m. I’m taking it tough — knowing I’ll never see my baby anymore. I’m trying to bear with it, but it’s tough.”
Kendrick Robinson, 19, of Canton, was a suspect in Blackwell’s murder. The Clarion-Ledger reported that he had been arrested on an unrelated statutory rape, charged and held at the Madison County Jail shortly after Blackwell’s death.
But in 1999, Assistant Police Chief Vickie McNeill said Young’s alleged rape could not be verified by the coroner, and suspects in the case were later ruled out after blood and DNA tests were conducted.
Failed attempts were made to reach Evelyn Blackwell, who spoke out on her daughter’s case in July of 2000, saying she didn't feel Canton police were moving swiftly enough in solving it.
In 2001, an anonymous group of Canton business people offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Blackwell’s death. Winn has taken the next step, identifying two new suspects.
“I took the case and studied it,” he said, “and interviewed some people. I was able to decide that these two were the prime suspects.”
Young said he's heard of the two suspects, but doesn't personally know them.
He will remember his daughter as a good girl, who baby-sat neighborhood children.
“My daughter was the type of person who didn’t never bother anyone,” he said. “I never had a problem with her. She didn’t deserve what happened to her.”
If you have information about Blackwell’s death or the whereabouts of the two suspects, call the Canton Police Department at 601-859-2121 or 601-355-8477.