Man found guilty of murder in Sparks farmer's death

March 12, 1991|By Deborah I. Greene | Deborah I. Greene,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

A 30-year-old Gardenville man was convicted yesterday of first-degree murder in the slaying of a 75-year-old gentleman farmer who was shot to death Nov. 16 after he let two robbers posing as stranded motorists inside his home to use the telephone.

Thomas Crawford did not kill Harold L. Webb, but his role in a robbery that was foiled when the victim's wife fought back made him as guilty as his girlfriend, Cynthia Levering, who allegedly fired the fatal shots, prosecutors said.

"We're not saying that he pulled the trigger, that he actually killed Mr. Webb. We're saying that he is an aider and abettor," S. Ann Brobst, an assistant state's attorney, told the Baltimore County Circuit Court jury.

Crawford, 30, also was convicted of trying to murder Joanne Webb, 66, burglary, attempted robbery and using a handgun to commit a felony.

Moments after the verdict was read, Crawford asked to speak to the judge. He launched into a tirade about how unhappy he was with his court-appointed defense attorney, John L. Calhoun, and how he wanted to appeal the verdict.

"I don't want this man to represent me," Crawford told the judge. "There was a lot of evidence that was not brought forth."

Mr. Calhoun was noticeably disturbed by Crawford's outburst before about a dozen spectators in the courtroom and later said he considered the comments nothing more than sour grapes.

"He's angry because he just got convicted of first-degree murder," said the attorney, noting that he spent hundreds of hours on the case. "I don't want my name trashed because he just got found guilty."

Mr. Calhoun contended during the trial that Crawford had not been at the scene of the murder.

Instead, he implicated Ms. Levering, her relatives and friends as likelier suspects in the foiled plot to rob the Webbs.

Crawford, the attorney said, was guilty only of trying to cover up for his girlfriend and get her out of town after he learned that she was involved in the slaying.

But Ms. Brobst said that Crawford and Ms. Levering planned the robbery together and that it went awry when Crawford could not get his gun out of the pocket of his leather jacket as the two were about to announce a holdup.

As the robber fumbled with the gun, Mrs. Webb clobbered him with a portable telephone and chased the bandit through the home, throwing a sewing basket and a stool at him as he fired several shots at her.

The elderly woman saved her own life, but she could not save that of her husband, who was shot five times by Crawford's accomplice.

Mrs. Webb could not positively identify her attackers but said they were wearing biker jackets, hats and heavy gloves. When the two suspects were arrested, they were wearing leather jackets similar to those described by Mrs. Webb.

Prosecutors also offered the testimony of Robert Kelly of Parkville, who alleged that the couple confessed the slaying to him the night of the murder. Crawford and Ms. Levering were arrested two days later after Mr. Kelly tipped off police.

Mr. Kelly and his mother each received $575 from Metro Crime Stoppers for the information.

That fact, said Crawford's attorney, made Mr. Kelly's testimony doubtful and his motives suspicious.

Ms. Brobst, however, said Mr. Kelly was no different from any other law-abiding citizen fed up with crime.

She said, "People should have the right to be safe in their own homes, and when you reach out a hand to someone you shouldn't have to pay like Mr. Webb."

Ms. Levering's trial begins today.

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