CLAYTON • A Maryland Heights man who complained of an incessant deep bass noise bothering him before he killed a neighbor pleaded guilty to murder Wednesday and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
James C. Blanton, 29, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon before Circuit Judge Kristine Kerr, who sentenced him to prison. Blanton originally had been charged with first-degree murder.
He admitted killing Yi-Ping “Peter” Chang, 35, on Dec. 12, 2015, at the Bennington Heights apartment complex in Maryland Heights after police said he demanded Chang “turn the bass down.”
Blanton had complained to various neighbors about bass at different points. Neighbors interviewed by the Post-Dispatch suspected Blanton was mentally ill because of what they described as hypersensitivity to noise. They said he became especially agitated when neighbors shut their doors, and he slammed his own in protest. Some said they made several complaints to management about Blanton’s behavior.
Authorities said Blanton wore a bullet-resistant vest under a hooded sweatshirt when he went to Chang’s apartment and killed him. On Blanton’s computer, police found open web pages including a news article titled, “Man cites stand your ground law after shooting neighbor over loud noise.”
State mental examinations found Blanton is on the autism spectrum but deemed him competent to stand trial, court records and lawyers said.
Chang had been watching a movie with his girlfriend, police said in 2015. It was unclear whether that was generating any noise that could have disturbed Blanton. Chang’s girlfriend was uninjured. Officers responding to the shooting found Blanton on the landing in front of Chang’s apartment. He stayed at the scene and cooperated with police, telling officers he shot Chang in self-defense.
Police recovered a handgun that investigators believe was used in the shooting. Blanton did not have a conceal-carry permit for a firearm, police said in court documents.
Blanton’s lawyer Brianne Besheer declined to comment.
One of Chang’s friends told the Post-Dispatch in 2015 that Chang and his family moved to St. Louis from Taiwan in the 1980s. The friend said Chang worked in tech support for Monsanto for more than a year and held two degrees from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He described Chang as a “very smart” and tech savvy person who loved fishing, movies and traveling.