Landscaper’s history highlighted in Austin death investigation

Police investigating suspicious death in northwest Austin. (Amanda Brandeis / KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Police are investigating a man’s possible ties to a woman’s death in North Austin after he did landscaping work at the home. Austin police arrested two men in connection to the death of Austin choir director Kathy Blair. Shawn Gant-Benalcazar, 30, is charged with capital murder after police say he killed Blair while trying to steal jewelry from the home she leased on Tamarack Trail. Police also arrested Timothy Parlin in connection to Blair’s death.

Court documents say the accused killer told police that Parlin drove him to the home. Investigators say Parlin was previously hired by the landlord to do landscaping work at the home.

“Timothy Parlin was arrested for violating his parole. Timothy Parlin is on parole for a burglary charge out of Austin for which he received a 50-year sentence back in 1993. He did approximately 15 years of that sentence and then was released back to Austin,” Austin Police Cmdr. Mark Spangler said in an earlier press conference.

“It’s scary, and I feel bad for the landlord in that respect,” said Debra LeRoy who lives a few doors down from the home where Blair was killed. “But that is something that really should be looked into.”

“Generallyj an owner is going to be doing criminal history background checks of employees, particularly those employees who have access to somebody’s rental unit,” said David Mintz, vice president of government affairs for the Texas Apartment Association.

Mintz says state law encourages background checks in some cases, and courts have shown that a property owner can be held liable if they hire someone who would reasonably pose a risk to tenants or employees.

“One of the difficult challenges that we face is, while you want to make sure that you have standards in place that are going to protect residents and employees that at the same time, you don’t want to be unfairly keeping somebody who may have an incident in the past from being able to be employed,” Mintz said.

Property owners decide whether to hire someone if there is an offense on a background check. Mintz says property owners are not required to tell tenants about the criminal history of someone who may be working at the home.

The Texas Apartment Association makes recommendations to its members including to consider the offense, when it happened, and the job that person will be doing.

“I think, in general, the laws that are on the books and common law standards have proven to be sufficient,” said Mintz.

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