"Danger to Children"

Why did Kelly Blake douse her kids with gas and set them on fire? She's seriously mentally ill -- and she was deserted by the system charged with protecting her and her family.

"The healing process on something like this is impossible to measure," he says. "I've spoken to my God about it, and I have to make my peace with it. It's a people issue, and I'm here to help people when I can."

But no one seems to know what to do with Johnny, a decent, bright kid who refuses to get counseling, never cries for his lost family, and is floundering in high school.

"Maybe he thinks that people will think he's crazy if he does what his mother did -- seek help from the professionals," says his grandfather and court-appointed conservator, Reed Juett.

Blake, left; Raymond, next to her; and Venessa, across from her mother; at a Phoenix restaurant shortly before the fire.
Blake, left; Raymond, next to her; and Venessa, across from her mother; at a Phoenix restaurant shortly before the fire.
Kelly Blake and her three children, clockwise from top, Johhny, Raymond and Venessa.
Kelly Blake and her three children, clockwise from top, Johhny, Raymond and Venessa.

"He loves his mother, but he doesn't want to see [her] at the moment, and hasn't in months, since she started back into her mother role -- 'Your hair is too long,' and so on. He never says anything about his brother and sister, though I know they're in his thoughts and his heart."

Juett is ambivalent about what should happen to his stepdaughter.

"She was wrong to do what she did," he says, "and I don't think she should be allowed to walk the streets. But there are mitigating circumstances that may have forced her into that situation. I don't think she would have done it -- killed my grandkids -- if she'd gotten the help she tried to get.... Those kids were her whole life. She was sick. But she should be punished in some way, even though she's already been punished as much as a person can be punished. The whole thing is just so complex."


Southwest Behavioral "discharged" Kelly Blake from its caseload on November 19, 1998. Eight months had passed since the fatal fire, and nine months since anyone from the clinic had seen her, except for perhaps on the evening news.

Under a section in Blake's paperwork titled "Goals Achieved," a therapist at Southwest Behavioral noted "CRISIS STABILIZATION."

Under "Goals Not Achieved," she wrote "NONE."

Southwest Behavioral's reason for discharging Blake -- "NEEDS ADDITIONAL OR ALTERNATIVE SERVICES."

The therapist then rendered an opinion about Blake's prognosis for recovering her mental faculties.

"POOR," she concluded.

Contact Paul Rubin at his online address: paul.rubin@newtimes.com

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