Crawford trial: Day 4

Jason Crawford and his defense team watch as Dr. Valerie Green, medical examiner, reviews Tiffiney Crawford’s autopsy photos. (Amy Leonard for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The murder trial of Cullman man Jason Crawford entered its fourth day Thursday. The defendant is charged with murder in the May 2, 2017, death of his wife, Tiffiney Joy Crawford. 

Damon Cooper, a forensic scientist with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, was called to the stand after the defense made a motion to disallow Cooper’s testimony, which Cullman County Circuit Judge Martha Williams overruled.  

Cooper testified as the firearms examiner in the case and identified the weapon used in Tiffiney Crawford’s death as a .38 Special Ruger LCR revolver. Cooper said the revolver was swabbed, and testing to determine stippling (unburned gunpowder that travels through the barrel of the gun) and soot measurements was performed to determine the range from which the weapon was fired. 

Cooper said ranges from 1 inch to 12 inches were tested only on the gunshot to the victim’s cheek. The gunshot to the victim’s temple was not tested due to the victim’s hair being a factor. Based on Cooper’s investigation, he testified, the gunshot that hit the victim’s cheek was fired from 2-10 inches away. He said the shot was not fired with the gun in contact with the victim’s skin. 

As evidence was presented to the witness, he was asked if the various sealed boxes and envelopes were in the same condition as when he originally turned them over. Some were not, per Cooper. His evidence is distinguished by a yellow barcode, and he said some of the items presented to him appeared to be repackaged and did not have his barcode. 

Angela Fletcher, another forensic scientist from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, reported taking swabs from the gun’s trigger, grip and barrel. While the DNA samples were “too limited” to be specifically identified, Fletcher testified, she was able to ascertain that the trigger and the grip both contained DNA from a male. She stated she “could not detect female DNA from the trigger.” On cross examination, Fletcher stated that DNA can remain on a surface for several years. 

Dr. Valerie Green, medical examiner for the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, performed the victim’s autopsy. She noted that the gunshot wound on the left cheek area had soot and gunpowder residue around it while the wound on the left temple did not have stippling around it. Green testified that the victim’s hair would not have prevented stippling in that area and that no stippling was found on the left ear or edge of the hairline in the area of the temple gunshot wound. Stippling was noted to be scattered across the forehead area but was not as close together as the cheek area.  

While reviewing the autopsy photos with the jury, Green noted abrasions on the backs of the middle and ring fingers of the victim’s left hand which were not found to be stippling. She testified that, based on her findings and the stippling patterns, the shot fired to the victim’s temple was from a distance greater than even 10 inches. She noted that the abrasions found on the victim’s left hand could have been caused by the hand being raised as shots were fired. Green stated there were no exit wounds from either bullet. Green testified the cause of death to be gunshot wounds to the victim’s head and the manner of death to be homicide. 

On cross examination, the witness was asked if it was impossible that the victim died by suicide. She replied, “Not absolutely but unlikely.” Green stated that the left temple wound was a fatal shot, but the cheek shot was not necessarily fatal.  

The prosecution rested its case midday, and the jury was instructed to return at 12:50 p.m. for the trial to resume at 1 p.m. However, at 1 p.m., the public was not allowed into the courtroom where the prosecution, the defense, the defendant and judge were in discussion. The public was told there was a delay while waiting for a witness. At 1:55 p.m. the trial resumed with the first witness for the defense providing a video deposition. 

James Lauridson, a forensic pathologist who works independently, reviewed the medical examiner’s report and determined there was not enough evidence, in his opinion, to rule out suicide. He showed a model of a skull and noted where a bullet had “partially exited” the victim’s skull on the right side. Lauridson stated that an individual is capable to shooting themselves in the head twice.  

On cross examination, Lauridson agreed that no stippling was found on the temple. He acknowledged it was “unusual” for a victim of suicide to have two gunshot wounds in the head and agreed that neither gunshot wound was a contact wound. Lauridson said he could not remember if he had ever seen a gunshot wound to the head without the gun being in contact and that most intentional gunshot wounds to the head are contact wounds. Graphic details of blood splatter patterns from various videos seen by the witness were discussed, along with the cupholders full of blood in the victim’s van. 

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency SBI Investigator Joe Parrish was called back to the stand and testified that, in his 2017 interview with Licensed Professional Counselor Laura Doss, it was reported that one of the traits from the victim’s Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality inventory was described as “impulsive.” 

On cross examination, Parrish stated that in his interview with the defendant, Jason Crawford stated that, when he reentered the home that night after the couple argued outside, he never made it past the laundry room and did not make it to the baby gate when he claims the victim shot herself. Jason Crawford stated in the interview that the victim was right-handed, and they shot guns at targets around the home. Jason Crawford stated he never observed the victim shooting with her left hand, only her right. 

The defense called the defendant’s mother, Ronda Crawford, to the stand. She stated she arrived on scene where at least four Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) employees were, including Deputies Jed Thomas and Corey Freeman. Ronda Crawford acknowledged the van was released to her after having a conversation with CCSO Sheriff Matt Gentry and Deputies Thomas, Jared Allen and Freeman. She stated Gentry, along with several deputies, covered the van with a blue tarp and the van was cleaned the following day, May 3, 2017, by her husband, Chris Crawford, and Jason Crawford’s ex-wife, Christina Thomas. 

Chris Crawford was called to the stand next and stated he arrived after 10 p.m. to the scene and did not sleep that night after covering the van with Gentry and approximately four deputies. The witness stated he was given instructions by the CCSO, who recommended the cleaning service ServPro, and cleaned the van the following morning on May 3, 2017. Chris Crawford testified that he found teeth belonging to the victim in the van’s air conditioning vents, and that he also found her diary, which he read, and determined, it “sounded like she was troubled.” The witness stated he and Christina Thomas finished cleaning the vehicle around noon and Deputy Freeman called him very soon afterward with news the van was evidence. He testified that Freeman came to retrieve the van and Chris Crawford told the deputy about the teeth he found and handed over the diary.  

Logan Crawford, the then 14-year-old son of Jason Crawford, was called and testified that he could hear his father and stepmother talking outside from inside the family’s mobile home the night of the shooting but couldn’t hear what they were saying. He stated he heard the back door shut and heard the baby gate open and close. Then, he said, he heard “a shot, a scream and another shot.” When asked if he loves his father, he immediately replied, “Absolutely.” 

Christina Thomas, Jason’s ex-wife and Logan’s mother, was the last to take the stand for the day. She stated that, when she had an affair while married to the defendant, he wanted to work things out, was gracious and did not want a divorce, but she opted for one as she was not in love with him. She testified that when she arrived at Jason and Tiffiney Crawford’s home the morning of May 3, 2017, around 7, Jason Crawford “was crying a lot” with Logan Crawford and Chris Crawford in the living room with him. She said she went to get the family breakfast and groceries and returned to put away the groceries. The witness said she went outside when Chris Crawford was cleaning the van and she helped clean the van with him. 

The trial will resume Friday morning.  

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