Crawford seemed “happy,” “normal”

In the days after Sarah Louise Crawford was shot in the chest and left dead or dying in the Quality Inn on Emmet Street, her husband, Anthony Dale Crawford, seemed "happy" and "normal" as he reconnected with distant family members in Florida, according to late afternoon testimony on day three of the trial.

"He wanted to visit my family," testified Barbara Sullivan, Crawford's third cousin, who said she hadn't seen him in "16 or 17 years" when he showed up at her job near Gainesville, Florida two days before Thanksgiving in 2004. His wife had been discovered less than two days earlier, naked in a hotel bed, dead of a gunshot wound, but Crawford seemed carefree.

Crawford, Sullivan testified, told her he had come to Florida on "vacation" and had been to see nearby car races. Crawford told Sullivan the driver's side window in his car– the maroon Hyundai Sonata that had been reported missing in Virginia– had been knocked out by thieves, who'd stolen his wallet and belongings.

Sullivan took Crawford to see her mother, and for several hours the family reminisced about old times and ate dinner together. After dinner, Sullivan said, she took Crawford to see her sister, where the conversation turned to "different cultures, different countries." Crawford mentioned that his "soon-to-be ex-wife" had been a British citizen, said Sullivan, a witness for the prosecution who testified Crawford never mentioned his wife's death.

While Crawford was reconnecting, Sarah's parents were panicking. Taking the stand for a second time, Sarah's father, John Powers, testified that on Sunday, November 21, 2004– three days after he and his wife had last seen Sarah– they filed a missing person report in Manassas. Already, Sarah's cell phone had been discovered on the side of the road and a blood-stained box she'd promised to mail had been found.

During cross examination, defense attorney Denise Lunsford suggested the Powers had waited to report Sarah's disappearance because she had "her own issues." When Lunsford elaborated, mentioning drug use and mental health issues written about in a police report, assistant commonwealth's attorney Jon Zug exploded.

"All that is is an attempt to smear the witness," he objected. On the stand, Powers was no less angry. "I said that about Dale," he replied, "not about her."

Following brief testimony from a domestic violence counselor who confirmed she had met with Sarah on November 1 but offered no other details, the jury soon had a chance to hear Crawford's version of events.

First, two Jacksonville, Florida police officers described apprehending Crawford as he drove through their city in the Hyundai. Thanks to a tip from Crawford's daughter in South Carolina, one testified, law enforcement were on the lookout for the car, and after spotting it, they took Crawford into custody without incident.

Once at the Jacksonville police station, Crawford– who had been read his Miranda rights– began to talk freely with Sergeant John Gay, a Jacksonville detective assigned to the case. The interview was video-taped, Gay testified, and prosecutors played the edited interview– nearly an hour in length– for the jury.

After detectives asked him about the car and whether he knew the reason for his arrest, Crawford dropped a bombshell.

"I know she's passed away," he admitted to Gay and his partner, who encouraged Crawford to tell them what had happened but asked if he wanted a lawyer on several occasions on the tape.

Crawford said Sarah had come to pick him up on Friday morning, November 19, 2004, and that they had decided to get away for the weekend. They drove to Charlottesville, he said, checked into a hotel and then went to McDonald's for breakfast. In the McDonald's parking lot, Crawford said, he decided to kill himself with his gun, a 38-caliber pistol. Sarah tried to stop him– "she grabbed it," he said– and the gun went off, fatally shooting her in the chest.

"It was basically her fault," he said on the tape, noting that he shouldn't have had a gun. Officers offered Crawford a cigarette and coffee and left the room for several minutes. When they returned and recapped the events Crawford had detailed, Crawford's version changed. This time, Crawford said, they had gone to breakfast first, Sarah had been shot, and then he checked into the hotel room.

"I was scared," said Crawford on the tape of his decision not to seek medical care for his mortally wounded wife. "It disturbs me, too."

The Commonwealth will rest its case tomorrow.