BENTON, Mo. -- Robert Grant's mother sobbed into her husband's shoulder as she watched on video while her son was assigned a public defender and given an Aug. 19 court date.
Grant was not in the Scott County Division 5 courtroom to see his mother and stepfather hold each other and cry. He appeared by video from the Scott County Jail for his first court date. He hung his head and wiped tears from his eyes as Judge David Mann read the charges against him.
Grant faces six felony charges, including first-degree murder. He is accused of stabbing to death Chad L. Chaney and attacking four other young Scott City men with a knife at a party in a remote area by the SEMO Port Authority early Saturday morning.
Grant's parents did not want to comment after the hearing, but Cathy Blankenship, who was in court to support the couple, said she believes Grant acted in self-defense. Although she is afraid of retaliation against her and her family, she said she wanted to be a voice for Grant. She said she has lived in the same apartment complex in Scott City as Grant and Grant's parents, and has known the family for slightly over a year.
"This is weird," Blankenship said. "He is a good-hearted, good guy. I believe he was protecting himself."
Blankenship said she blames Scott City police and the Scott County Sheriff's Department for allowing young people to have wild parties with underage drinking in the city and in the area known as Red Gate.
"They just let them get in their cars and drive home," she said. "They know the next night they're going to be partying again. The law knows about that place."
Blankenship described Grant as a friendly neighbor who was always willing to help her whenever he saw she needed something. Whenever he saw her two sons, ages 11 and 13, playing outside, he would join them and play football with them. She said she would never allow her sons to be around him if she thought he abused drugs or drank heavily.
The Robert Grant whom Blankenship said she knows works construction and goes out with his girlfriend. When he's not out with her, she said, he has been known to stay home and watch videos, or either come borrow her sons' PlayStation or play video games with them.
It will eventually come out in court testimony what happened that night, whether it was Grant who attacked Chaney, or if Grant acted in self-defense, as Blankenship said, after several drunk young men jumped him and hit him in the face with a rock for speaking to one of the women at the gathering. Blankenship said she believes the ones who attacked Grant with a rock should also be charged.
"One blow to the head could have killed him," she said.
Blankenship said she will never believe Grant was the knife-wielding attacker he has been made out to be. She said she has seen him on a few occasions when he's been drinking, and said he's not a mean drunk.
"I've seen him get angry," she said. "His anger is not like mine. I will holler. He'll just get real quiet. I can't see him going after anyone to stab them."
Blankenship said she is also familiar with the party-goers. Not only do they party at the Red Gate, but she said she has called the police several times to report loud parties and underage drinking near her residence involving some of the same people. No one, she said, is ever arrested. They're just told to break it up and go home.
Blankenship criticized the authorities for not patrolling that area more frequently. If there had been the threat of arrest, then the area would not have been so attractive to the revelers. Then Chaney would not have been killed and Robert Grant would not be in jail and his parents wouldn't have to display their grief in court.
"It's just nuts," Blankenship said.
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