Man gets 25 years in slaying

March 02, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

A Columbia man was sentenced yesterday to 25 years in prison for the August 1993 beating death of a 6-year-old boy, despite his pleas for forgiveness.

Anthony Lee Crawford, 31, was given the maximum sentence under a plea agreement he entered into in November. His lawyer argued before the sentencing in Howard Circuit Court that the defendant's abusive childhood probably caused his actions,

Crawford, who is infected with the virus that causes AIDS, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the Aug. 3, 1993, slaying of Christopher Flye, a Nashville, Tenn., boy who was visiting him for the summer.

An autopsy showed that Christopher died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head that caused internal bleeding and swelling in the brain. Medical examiners found evidence of 13 blows to the boy's head, among other injuries.

The boy's mother, Zelda Flye of Nashville, sobbed as Crawford begged for forgiveness and a chance to get treatment. She did not speak at yesterday's hearing but wore a pin with her son's picture.

"I'm very sorry for what happened to Christopher," Crawford said as he broke into tears. "I still love him. I miss him."

Crawford admitted striking Christopher after first reporting that the boy had fallen in a bathtub and that he had fallen off the toilet and struck his head on a shelf.

Judge Raymond Kane Jr. said he was not "insensitive" to Crawford's childhood and illness but that he could not overlook the seriousness of the incident.

The judge denied Crawford's request to serve his sentence at the Patuxent Institution, the state's primary treatment and rehabilitation prison in Jessup.

"You committed a brutal act, a senseless act, on a defenseless child," Judge Kane told Crawford.

Crawford must serve nearly 15 years of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, but prosecutors agreed not to seek more than a 25-year term.

Before Judge Kane imposed his sentence, Assistant Public Defender Richard Bernhardt suggested a five-year prison term that would have allowed Crawford to receive treatment.

"Mr. Crawford may or may not survive his incarceration," Mr. Bernhardt said. "I think that is dependent on his disease. If he does survive, I hope he can have an inner peace."

Assistant State's Attorney Shirley Ripley asked Judge Kane to give Crawford the maximum sentence under terms of the plea agreement.

"The victim was a 6-year-old child, brutally and violently attacked," Ms. Ripley said. "A 6-year-old child doesn't have a chance against an adult."

Mr. Bernhardt said Crawford was going through a difficult time in his life when Christopher's mother -- a longtime friend -- brought the boy to visit him.

Crawford, of the 5100 block of Brook Way in Wilde Lake village, recently learned that he had been infected with the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome through a blood transfusion, a diagnosis that cut short his military career, Mr. Bernhardt said.

Crawford's marriage failed after his wife began a relationship with one of his friends, Mr. Bernhardt said, and he also lost his job as a security guard because of a back injury.

Crawford was abused as a child, including a beating with an extension cord, Mr. Bernhardt said.

His mother, Anna Crawford of Staunton, Va., testified that Crawford called her for advice on disciplining Christopher while the boy was staying with him. She said she suggested "stinging" the boy's legs with a switch.

Deviera Gilden, a social worker with the state public defender's office, testified on Crawford's behalf, saying that as many as 70 percent of abused children become abusive parents. She noted, however, that adults abused in childhood can stop the cycle of abuse with counseling and group therapy.

Mr. Bernhardt presented about a half-dozen character witnesses for Crawford, who described him as a caring, friendly person.

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