CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The driver charged with killing Springdale Police Officer Kaia Grant pleaded guilty Friday to aggravated murder.
Terry Blankenship, 42, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility for parole after 30 years for the officer’s death on Interstate 275 last year.
The death penalty was dismissed with the plea.
Officer Grant’s family released the following statement following Blankenship’s guilty plea:
“No parent should ever have to outlive their child. Kaia’s father will never walk his daughter down the aisle. Kaia’s mother will never experience having a baby shower for her daughter. The fabric of the family’s soul has been shredded by the senseless act by someone who can only be described as evil. We ask for prayers to help the family through the grieving process and to let go of anger of having our beautiful daughter, sister, niece, and granddaughter taken away from us far too soon.
“Well educated and bilingual, Kaia Grant could have been anything she wanted to be. She chose a life of service to people. She exemplified best in what every police chief wants in an officer. Professionalism, disciplined, well spoken, and empathetic. The family is honored and humbled by the many stories of Kaia’s service and the tremendous impact she had on the Springdale Police Department and the greater community at the age of thirty-three (33).
“The family received such a tremendous outpouring of support from friends, law enforcement and the community we can not name all of them. However, we do want to recognize and acknowledge the following:
Seth Hagaman, Senior Special Agent of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office
Kim Schneidt, Advocate for the Hamilton County Victims/Witness Program
David Yost, State Attorney General
Joseph T. Deters, Prosecuting Attorney for Hamilton County and
Chief Thomas Wells and the Springdale Police Department
“Kaia was totally committed to being a police officer. Kaia was also totally committed to keeping her professional life and her private life separate. To that end, the family asks that you respect their need for privacy as we continue to mourn the loss of Kaia Grant.”
Blankenship was fleeing Elmwood Place police on northbound I-75 and then westbound I-275 on March 20, 2020, when prosecutors say he purposely rammed his vehicle into two police cruisers on the side of the highway. according to court records.
Officer Grant and Sgt. Andrew Davis had responded to the highway to try to end the chase.
Grant was about to throw down “stop sticks” to try to deflate the tires on Blankenship’s maroon pickup truck.
Blankenship’s arrest report states he “purposely struck Officer Kaia Grant ... while she was in the course of her official duties, causing her death.”
At the time, Blankenship was wanted by Blanchester police on a felony aggravated burglary warrant. He had threatened “suicide by cop” and was considered “armed and dangerous,” police have said.
On March 19, police say Blankenship broke into his estranged wife’s home in Clinton County and pistol-whipped a friend of his wife who was in the residence. The homeowner and friend called 911 but when the police arrived, he had fled.
An assistant Hamilton County prosecutor said authorities found text messages Blankenship sent saying police “were going to have to kill him before they take him into custody and arrest him.”
Officer Grant, a Wyoming High School graduate, was 33-years-old and an eight-year veteran with the Springdale Police Department. This was the agency’s first in-the-line-of-duty death.
Sgt. Davis also was hurt in the crash and taken to a hospital. He was treated and released.
Blankenship shot himself at the crash scene on the highway, according to the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has said the impact of the crash turned on Grant’s body camera and a single gunshot is heard coming from his vehicle.
“You can hear him shoot himself in the jaw trying to kill himself,” he said.
Blankenship was transferred to the jail after receiving medical treatment at a hospital and then a nursing home.
He has been held without bond since last year at the Hamilton County Justice Center.
Blankenship’s charges are aggravated burglary, felonious assault, weapon under disability, failure to comply, aggravated murder, murder, two counts of felonious assault, and two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.