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Former producer for Rosie O'Donnell charged in sister's 2015 slaying

Former producer for Rosie O'Donnell charged in sister's 2015 slaying
Jill Blackstone was arrested this week in Baltimore on suspicion of murdering her sister in Los Angeles in 2015. (Los Angeles Police Department)

Television producer Jill Blackstone is facing extradition from Maryland after being charged in the 2015 slaying of her deaf and partially blind sister in Studio City, Los Angeles police said Thursday.

Los Angeles County prosecutors filed a murder charge against the producer last month, following a two-year investigation by LAPD Valley homicide detectives into the death of 49-year-old Wendy Blackstone. Jill Blackstone was also charged with three counts of animal cruelty.

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In March 2015, Wendy Blackstone was found unconscious next to a dead dog in an enclosed garage that had filled with carbon monoxide. Paramedics tried to resuscitate her, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office determined that the victim died of inhalation of combustion and the sedative alprazolam. Her death is listed as "undetermined" on the coroner's website.

On Tuesday, after Valley homicide detectives tracked Jill Blackstone to a relative's home in Hoboken, N.J., they learned that she had gone to Johns Hopkins University's medical center. Officer Mike Lopez of the Los Angeles Police Department said detectives arranged for Baltimore police to arrest her on the outstanding charges. Lopez said she is now in Baltimore police custody awaiting extradition to Los Angeles.

From the outset, investigators considered Wendy Blackstone's death to be "very suspicious" and "possibly staged," according to the autopsy report by the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

She was found in the garage of a Studio City home in the 12000 block of Landale Street atop blankets with a suicide note in her hand. Investigators said the note was written by Jill Blackstone, according to the coroner's report. Wendy Blackstone was legally blind and required hearing aids, the report said.

Near her feet were a Weber charcoal grill and a trash can with ash in it — both believed to be the source of the carbon monoxide, the report said. Nearby was a mostly empty bottle of vodka, although no alcohol was detected in the dead woman's body.

Investigators saw several notes near the body of Wendy Blackstone with end-of-life instructions, including orders not to resuscitate, but none were signed by the dead woman.

When paramedics arrived and opened the doors to the garage, they found one dead dog and two others walked lethargically out, the report said. One of the two, a Doberman, later died.

Jill Blackstone later told investigators that a friend called her home and she "just 'came to' and did not remember what happened," according to the coroner's report. She later told police that the grill was used in the garage to keep warm, and that the charcoal was used to roast marshmallows, the report said.

Jill Blackstone, who once was a producer for Rosie O'Donnell, was initially arrested after her sister died. She was released without any charges being filed against her, but only days later, the district attorney's office ordered further investigation.

Homicide detectives and arson investigators then began an extensive series of interviews related to the death, Lopez said.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Jill Blackstone rose to fame producing numerous television shows, including "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" and Sally Jessy Raphael's "Sally," according to her personal website. She also produced a 1993 episode of "The Jerry Springer Show," according to the Internet Movie Database.

Twitter: @lacrimes

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Twitter: @MattHjourno

UPDATES:

3 p.m.: This article was updated with details from the autopsy report on Wendy Blackstone.

This article was originally published at 2:25 p.m.

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