Overturned: Convicted motel wife-killer prevails on appeal
Anthony Dale Crawford, the Manassas man convicted of capital murder, rape, and abduction in the death of his estranged wife, Sarah Louise Crawford, has had those convictions overturned by the Virginia Court of Appeals.
Sarah Crawford's nude body was discovered November 22, 2004, in a room in the Quality Inn on Emmet Street.
On February 9, 2007, a Charlottesville jury convicted Crawford of abduction with intent to defile, rape, capital murder, grand larceny (for stealing her car), and the use of a firearm in the commission of both a murder and an abduction. They found him not guilty of use of a firearm in the commission of a rape because, said prosecutor Jon Zug at the time, the jury believed the rape occurred after she was dead.
Yet, in a December 23 decision, the Virginia Court of Appeals Ã¯Â»Â¿found insufficient evidence to uphold Crawford's convictions for rape, abduction with intent to defile, and use of a firearm in the commission of an abduction. Because the rape and abduction convictions provided the basis for the capital murder conviction, once those were dismissed, the three-judge appeals panel reversed the capital murder conviction as well–- and remanded the case back for retrial on first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of murder charges, according to the court's opinion.
The court did uphold Crawford's larceny conviction.
"Horrible," is how Irene Powers, Sarah Crawford's mother, describes her reaction to the reversal. "I can't believe it. It was a shock, to say the least."
"There was evidence submitted that we believed should have been excluded," says Crawford's appeal attorney, Steve Rosenfield. "Without that evidence, we believe the results likely will be different at a retrial."
This is not the first time Crawford has beaten back horrific charges. In 1992, a South Carolina jury ruled that, despite the presence of a graphic videotape showing him having sex with a previous wife while she was bound and blindfolded, that he did not commit rape.
In the Charlottesville case, a three-judge panel with the Virginia Court of Appeals opined that trial court judge Edward Hogshire erred when he permitted the prosecution to introduce into evidence an affidavit that was part of Sarah Crawford’s request for a protective order against her husband, thus violating the Confrontation Clause, the right to confront one's accusers spelled out in the Sixth Amendment, something the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a similar case subsequent to the Crawford trial.
Judge Hogshire was not immediately available for comment, but the Appeals decision didn't surprise the man whose office may be forced to prosecute all over again.
"We knew the United States Supreme Court decision relating to the admissibility of evidence was similar," says Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman.
Chapman says his office is working with the Attorney General's office, which fought the appeal, and he'll know more next week about how to proceed. One option is to request that the entire Virginia Court of Appeals hear the case. Or the first-degree murder charge could be sent back to Charlottesville Circuit Court.
"If the case is sent back, we'll certainly be prepared to retry it," says Chapman.