By Joe Boomgaard
In the least, Robert William Blake was guilty of bad judgment when he jumped into a car with a murderer who proceeded to split town.
But for the past 16 years, Blake has maintained, bad judgment aside, he is innocent of the murder for which he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. That conviction was based largely on the testimony of three teenaged girls who identified him only after seeing his picture in the media.
On May 16, 1989, Blake, almost 21-years-old, hopped into a car driven by his friend Joseph Servich, even though he knew his buddy did not own the vehicle. Today, Blake realizes he should have fled when Servich told him that he just killed a man and took the car.
At the time, Blake says he did not believe him and agreed to leave town with Servich in the vehicle. But by the time they reached North Carolina, Blake says he began believing Servich killed someone when his friend broke down and again talked about killing the Pittsburgh man over an unwanted sexual advance. Before long, both of them were caught in Florida.
Back in Pittsburgh, three teenaged girls initially didn’t identify Blake in as many as eight viewings of photo arrays as the men they saw with the victim in his car.
But a month after seeing photographs of Servich and Blake on television linking the two to a murder investigation, two of the girls identified Blake as being at an AM/PM Mini-mart with Albert Falbo just before he was killed. The third girl actually identified someone else.
Yet those eyewitness testimonies led to Blake’s conviction for second degree murder, even though no physical evidence tied him to the crime scene.
Servich was also convicted of third degree murder. Years later, he would tell Fr. William Terza, a Catholic priest who counsels convicts, that he acted alone in the killing and that Blake had no involvement in the act.
Servich has not responded to queries.