NEWS- Crawford on trial: Gruesome shooting case under way

"We found a female body lying on a bed," testified Charlottesville police officer Lynn Childers on the first day of the trial of Anthony Dale Crawford, the Manassas man accused of killing his wife in a car and then raping her body and creepily posing it in a Charlottesville motel room.

Childers testified that the hotel manager summoned her to Quality Inn on Emmet Street to investigate an overdue room with a "strange odor." What she found in the early morning of November 22, 2004 was the body of Sarah Louise Crawford, 33, who had filed a protective order against the defendant just weeks before her death.

The room, both prosecution and defense agree, was registered to "Dale Crawford," who had arrived at the Quality Inn in Sarah Crawford's maroon Hyundai Sonata. Although there were no signs of Ms. Crawford's belongings, his clothes were found inside the room, and his DNA was on several cigarette butts on the table next to the bed, the prosecutor claimed. Mr. Crawford was later arrested driving the Hyundai near Jacksonville, Florida.

Defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana, however, didn't address how or why the shooting might have occurred. Rather, she promised a defense based on unanswered questions.

While Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jon Zug portrayed Sarah Crawford, an office manager at a video production firm, as a woman desperate to leave her unhappy marriage behind, Quagliana painted a different picture. Ms. Crawford, she said, was still in love with– not in fear of– her husband. Although he was unemployed, not long before her death, Sarah had paid for him to fly to a truck-driving school in Tennessee.

Quagliana promised she would present evidence– including records of a three-hour telephone call– that in the weeks before she died, Sarah Crawford was in regular voluntary contact with her husband and simply didn't want to admit as much to her friends and family.

One giant detail jurors will not hear in the trial is that this isn't the first time Crawford has stood accused of a ghastly crime of domestic violence. In 1992, despite a graphic video depicting him having sex with his then-wife who was bound, gagged and blindfolded, he beat charges of spousal rape in South Carolina.

But Zug suggested in his opening argument on February 5 that what Crawford did after this killing goes beyond ghastly. As Zug revealed that semen was found in every orifice of Sarah Crawford's body and that her naked corpse was left posed in the bed, spectators were left to come to their own grim conclusions of how– and when– the alleged rape occurred.

"If he couldn't have her, nobody could," said Zug, speaking to the newly selected jury, including two alternates, of eight women and six men. With a smiling picture of Sarah Crawford displayed on a large-screen TV behind him, Zug spent more than 30 minutes describing a woman finally gathering the strength to leave behind an abusive relationship.

"She'd lost a lot of weight and was feeling good about who she was," said Zug. "She had good friends and a loving and supportive family." Less than three weeks before her death, she moved out of the apartment she'd shared with Mr. Crawford, and on November 1 she took out a protective order against him, citing a long history of domestic violence including rape and death threats.

On November 18, Sarah Crawford met her parents at the Outback Steakhouse in Dale City. That was the last confirmed sighting of her.

Graphic photos, a blood-stained car seat, and a pair of woman's underpants were some of the nearly 60 exhibits introduced as the murder trial entered its second day Tuesday in Charlottesville Circuit Court.

Surrounded by piles of evidence wrapped in brown paper and sealed with red evidence tape, Zug spent three hours examining two police witnesses, going over in painstaking detail their discovery of the body in the Quality Inn.

Officer Mike Flaherty, a senior forensic technician for the Charlottesville Police, described entering room 118 after being called by the hotel manager. A "do not disturb" sign hung on the door, but as soon as he entered, he testified, "I could smell decay."

The television was turned on with the volume high, Flaherty testified, and the air conditioner was running despite the cool November night. He and fellow officer Childers "cleared the room," checking for anyone who might be hiding, when they noticed a "lump" in the bed.

When they pulled back the covers, Flaherty said, they discovered the nude body of Sarah Crawford, posed in a "froglike" position with her knees out, ankles crossed, with her hands resting on her lower abdomen. She was dead and had been for some time, he added, describing grisly post-mortem conditions of "rigor mortis," "lividity," and flesh "marbling."

On a large-screen television, Zug displayed images of Sarah Crawford and the crime scene, including what was described as a bullet wound measuring approximately 5mm on the right side of her chest under her arm. Members of her family were not present during this portion of the trial, but arrived after the graphic testimony ended.

Detective Mark Fields took the stand next to testify both about the condition of the room and about apprehending Mr. Crawford in Jacksonville several days later as he was driving his dead wife's maroon Hyundai Sonata. Fields described a red stain on the right side of the driver's seat and noted that the driver's side window was missing, with fragments of glass embedded in the door frame. Officers conducted tests to determine if a gun had been fired inside the car, but the results of those tests were not made clear during his testimony.

With defense attorney Denise Lunsford's cross examination of Fields, the trial continued after the Hook's Tuesday afternoon press time and was expected to last through Friday. Twice-daily updates can be found at


Anthony Dale Crawford stands accused of murder and rape– possibly in that order