Yesterday's Crimes: The NFL Crossbow Killing

NFL teams are modern day medieval fiefdoms where ruthless barons, such as Mark Davis and Dan Snyder, preside over helmeted armies culled from the underclass. No team was more of a game of thrones than the Seattle Seahawks in 1989, when a dispute between co-owners led to an assassination using a weapon favored by the men who guarded Richard the Lionheart.

Mike Blatt was a Stockton-based real estate developer who ruled over vast lands, including apartment complexes in California, Arizona, and Nevada. His Blatt Development Co. oversaw $120 million worth of construction in its first 10 years. He also ran a successful sports agency, but all that wasn't enough.

[jump] In August 1988, Blatt put together a deal to buy the Seattle Seahawks with Florida real estate developer Ken Behring and the Nordstrom family. While his better-known partners held the lion's share of the franchise, Blatt carved out a 10 percent stake in the team.

In February 1989, Blatt realized his ambitions as the team's interim general manager. He proclaimed he would “create a dynasty” in Seattle, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Blatt's dynastic drive was cut short, however. An investigation commissioned by Seahawks minority owner Kenneth Hoffman revealed that Blatt was involved in 31 lawsuits in San Joaquin County.

“Mike was getting all the press,” Hofmann told the LA Times. “He was walking around like he owned the Seattle Seahawks. That bothered me.”

By Feb. 22, 1989, Blatt was ousted as Seahawks GM and replaced by former Raiders coach Tom Flores.

Larry Carnegie was responsible for two of the lawsuits that helped cost Blatt control of the Seahawks. Carnegie started working for Blatt's development company as a broker and property manager. A string of bad business deals caused Carnegie to quit five years later. Carnegie soon sued Blatt for $200,000 in unpaid commissions. Blatt counter-sued for $600,000 over a botched hotel deal.

On Feb. 28, 1989, Carnegie, still in the real estate business, went to meet a potential client at a house he was showing on Tokay Colony Road in Lodi. James Mackey and Carl Hancock, two former college football players, were waiting for Carnegie at the property. Hancock greeted Carnegie outside while Mackey waited inside the garage with a crossbow.

Mackey was supposed to wait until Hancock lured Carnegie into the garage, but the bowman grew nervous. Mackey shot Carnegie while the realtor was standing outside the half-opened garage door. The 16-inch bolt hit Carnegie in the back and plowed through his chest before landing on the lawn.

“I've been shot,” Carnegie yelled before collapsing onto the ground.

Carnegie had somehow survived the shot. The inept hitmen attempted to smother Carnegie with a sleeping bag right there in the driveway as Denise Brock and Debra Ybarra pulled up to deliver some keys to Carnegie. The women slammed the car into reverse, pulled away, and called the sheriff.

Now panicked, Mackey and Hancock dumped their still-living victim into the trunk and sped off, leaving the sleeping bag and the bloody crossbow bolt behind. The duo drove for a while, finally pulling over to strangle Carnegie with a rope before dropping the body down a ravine a few miles off Highway 101 near Cloverdale. The body landed in a much-used garbage dump and was discovered the next day.

Besides leaving a trail of evidence and eyewitnesses behind, Mackey had also used his own name when he rented the car used in the crime. Mackey's cousin, John Holmes (not the '70s porn star), was arrested on May 31, 1989, in a case of mistaken identity. Mackey turned himself in a day later and Hancock was arrested that August.

Mackey and Hancock told authorities that they were hired by Mike Blatt to murder Carnegie, and that Blatt blamed Carnegie for costing him the Seahawks GM position.

Mackey and Hancock each received life sentences for the murder and are still in prison today. As for Blatt, two attempts to try him ended with hung juries. He now lives in Sausalito and is part owner of the Alta Mira Recovery Programs, a substance abuse treatment center located in a former hotel overlooking the Bay.

You might even see Blatt on the Embarcadero strolling through the NFL's Super Bowl City next week, surveying the glory that could have been.

“Yesterday's Crimes” revisits strange, lurid, eerie, and often forgotten crimes from San Francisco's past.

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