INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Noah Blackburn remembers when he escaped with 27 orphaned brothers and sisters from the chaos of their homeland in Haiti in the 1980s.
“I know they snuck us out in the middle of the night, put us all in a truck to escape because I guess people were coming to murder us.”
A pair of missionaries, Kathy and Danny Blackburn, spirited the children off the island and back home to Indiana to settle in a large pole-barn-type house in Shelby County, surrounded by the love of their church and the distrust of some of their neighbors.
“It was all right,” recalled Noah. “We got a lot of support just because of the news media about 28 kids coming from Haiti. There was some negative, but we overcame it and went about our business.”
Home schooled and mainlined into public education, some of the Blackburn children went to college. Some went to jail.
The littlest Blackburn of them all, Mark, took the second route.
“The youngest and maybe a little picked on,” Marianne Memarian remembered of her adoptive nephew. “Maybe he tried to find his place and pretty much that was the thread of his life to find his place.”
It was a path Mark followed from Shelby County to Indianapolis to Muncie to Chicago to St. Louis and back to Indiana, never quite getting there, eventually landing in prison after robbery and intimidation convictions.
“I never lost touch with him,” said Rachel Blackburn about her efforts to stay in touch with her wandering brother all those years. “Most of the time he says he’s just doing him. He was on the streets. That’s what that meant. He was doing him.”
Twelve years ago Mark fathered a daughter whom he struggled to build a relationship with after his 2017 release from incarceration.
“Like if he wasn’t locked up or something, he would go see her and get her,” said Rachel.
That’s what Mark was doing when he was found fatally beaten and shot on the morning of February 2 in an alley near the 2100 block of Kildare Avenue on Indianapolis’ east side.
“I haven’t found out anything,” said Noah. “That’s why I called you guys to help get this on the air so we can find a solution on what happened.”
Rachel said before his death, her brother “had a couple he was beefing with in Indianapolis.”
The family believes the killing was a personal affair, not motivated by robbery or drugs.
IMPD admits it is stumped for a motive, a suspect or even a reason why Blackburn’s body was found in the alley.
“He was really actually insightful,” said Aunt Marianne. “He had great questions he was asking about finding purpose in his life or making sense of things that happened or things he struggled with or even societal things like trying to find your place in society that wanted to keep you on the fringes and worked hard to keep you sometimes on the fringes of society.”
Marianne said Mark was days from meeting another former offender who was offering him a job and mentoring to get to that point in life.
“He wanted to get to a better place, and he wanted to get his footing, and I never saw anybody so searching and wanting to get his feet steady.”
“Mark was always on the run, so anytime that I could catch up with him, I would catch up with him and see how he was doing,” said Noah, who remembered being squeezed into that truck with his brothers and sisters escaping Haiti three decades ago along with the little brother who started life on the run and perhaps ended it that way, too.
“I admired the search that he had. He never gave up,” said Marianne. “He never got a chance to raise his daughter. He never got that turnaround. He never got to experience that.”
If you know anything about the murder of Mark Blackburn earlier this month or why his body was found in an alley just off of Emerson Avenue and I-70, call Crime Stoppers at (317) 262-TIPS. Your information could be worth a $1,000 reward.