'A new life' cut short
Though today's morning testimony in the capital murder trial of Anthony Dale Crawford was all about material evidence, afternoon testimony turned far more emotional as friends and family of the victim, Sarah Louise Crawford, took the stand. "She came to our house early," testified Sarah's father, John Powers of Manassas, recalling the morning of October 29, 2004. "We were going to help her move out." Powers, Sarah, and her mother, Irene, drove to the Manassas apartment she had shared with Crawford, whom she married in 1999. Sarah, her father testified, believed Crawford would be away from home, looking for a job. That was not the case.
"He was lying on the sofa in a pair of boxers and a t-shirt," said Powers. When Sarah told Crawford he needed to get dressed because her parents were with her and she was planning to move out, Powers testified, Crawford dressed– but then quickly became hostile, telling Sarah, "You can't take anything." When she continued to collect her personal belongings– including her Green Card, as she and her mother are both British citizens– Powers said, Crawford called the police, who arrived soon after and confirmed that Sarah was within her rights to remove her possessions. Manassas Police Officer Michael Carlino testified that Crawford became "agitated" and began "invading her space," following Sarah around the apartment in a threatening manner. Though Crawford eventually "settled down," and Sarah told Carlino that he could leave, Carlino said he and his partner went around the corner but didn't leave. "I knew there was going to be a problem," he said. Indeed, he testified, 15 minutes later, Sarah called again. This time, Carlino said, Sarah and her parents told police that Crawford had thrown and broken a table that belonged to her. Her parents successfully helped her move into a new apartment that day, and three days later, she filed a protective order against Crawford with the Manassas Police. It was a decision she shared with her employer, Mickey Stern, owner of Base Productions. Stern testified that Sarah, who had worked as his office manager for a year, had increasingly confided in him about her marital troubles and about her fears for her safety. Stern said he had offered Sarah financial support as she went out on her own, and he believed that she was excited about having a new life. Part of that new life was dating, something that the married Sarah– who, according to a 2004 AP report, had lost 200 pounds in the two years before her death– had not done for some time. In the fall of 2004, though, things had changed. Soon after she and Crawford separated, Sarah met Jeff Murphy, owner of a landscape and construction business, through the Yahoo personals. The two quickly progressed from emails to lengthy phone conversations, and on Tuesday, November 16 they met for the first time over lunch. Murphy testified that he and Sarah "had a really nice conversation" and made plans to see each other again on Saturday, November 20. That date would never take place. When Murphy arrived at Sarah's apartment with a rose and a bottle of wine that Saturday, Sarah wasn't home. He left a note for her: "Sarah, Sorry I missed you. Call me to let me know you're okay." Asked by prosecutor Joe Platania to read his own words on the stand this afternoon, Murphy broke down in tears. Friends and family weren't the only ones who testified this afternoon. Manassas resident Mike Manuel described finding an unlabeled box on the side of the road on November 19 that contained a new camera bag and an invoice signed by Mickey Stern, Sarah's boss. It was a box Sarah had in her possession when she disappeared, and which she had promised Stern she would mail. And Ed Pippin detailed his discovery of Sarah's cell phone, opened and turned on, at the end of his Manassas driveway on Saturday, November 20. Her unexplained disappearance and her failure to report to work were out of keeping with a woman so responsible that Stern referred to her on the stand as the office's "mother hen." Less than 48 hours later, Sarah's body was discovered in the Quality Inn in Charlottesville, and the hunt was on for Crawford. The prosecution will continue presenting evidence tomorrow morning. The case is scheduled through Friday, despite a forecast of winter weather, and Judge Edward Hogshire says the court has taken the unusual step of arranging for juror transportation by the sheriff's department in the event of snow. #