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Man Convicted in Hammer Slayings of Wife, Son

October 31, 1996 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ A jury rejected the insanity defense Wednesday of a man who bludgeoned his wife and blind, disabled son to death with a hammer as they slept in a motel room.

Jurors took two hours to convict Robert Blair, 50, of two counts of first-degree murder in the slayings. He was then sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison.

Blair testified that an angel told him to kill his 8-year-old son, Justin, and that he killed his wife Sandra, 36, because she had tried to talk him out of it.

He also told jurors he expected to be reunited with his family once they were all resurrected.

After his arrest in the March 25 slayings, Blair had told police he had feared authorities would take away Justin, who was legally blind, had cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair.

Social service officials, however, said they had no plans to take Justin.

Associate Attorney General Michael Ramsdell called Blair’s insanity defense ``ridiculous.″

Police said Blair bought the hammer the day before the slayings and asked the store clerk to double bag it so no one could see what it was. He hid it under his bed at the motel.

Lee Topham, one of Blair’s attorneys, said the insanity plea has not been used successfully in a homicide trial since the state law was changed in 1978 to put the burden of proof on the defense to present clear and convincing evidence of insanity.

``Those are relatively high standards,″ Topham said. ``I was a little surprised at the relatively short time they were out.″

The murders occurred in a roadside motel in Concord, where the family had been living for two weeks after they were evicted from their apartment in Springfield, Mass.

Family and friends portrayed Blair as a loner who never held a job, forcing the family to live off of handouts and disability checks for Justin and Mrs. Blair, who had been injured in a car wreck in 1978.