Friend of Justin Crabbe was arrested Tuesday in South Texas.
By Steven Kreytak
Thursday, August 02, 2007
A plea bargain in the shooting death of Bowie High School student Jennifer Crecente has netted Travis County prosecutors a guilty plea by the 18-year old's former boyfriend and an indictment of a second man in the case.
Justin Allen Crabbe, 19, received a 35-year prison sentence in court Wednesday before sitting through a verbal assault by Crecente's family, who recalled her as a caring, smart woman with a bright future.
"You are a coward," said her grandmother Elizabeth Richeson. "You are not a man."
Earlier in the day, prosecutors unsealed an indictment against Crabbe's friend Ricardo Ramon, 24, who hadn't previously been charged.
Police have known about Ramon since shortly after Crecente was shot in a wooded area in Southwest Austin. Crabbe, who initially said the shooting was an accident, told police that Ramon bought the gun, according to a police affidavit.
In an interview with the American-Statesman last year, Ramon's father said his son was with him during the shooting.
"My boy's got nothing to do with it," said the father, who was not identified in news accounts at the time because his son had not been charged. "Clean as a whistle. My boy is a good boy."
The indictment doesn't explain any role Ramon might have had in the case.
In Texas, someone can be charged with murder even if he or she wasn't present when the shooting occurred under the state's law of parties, which says someone who "solicits, encourages, directs, aids or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense" is also guilty of the crime.
Russ Hunt Jr., president of the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer's Association, said that a person who purchases a gun that is used in a murder can be charged with murder if he or she knew when providing the gun that it might be used to kill.
"You have to know that the person is going to be murdered," Hunt said. "You have to share the intent of the primary actor."
Crabbe testified before the grand jury that indicted Ramon on July 17.
Travis County Assistant District Attorney Amy Meredith said Crabbe has also agreed to testify, if needed, at Ramon's trial.
Ramon was arrested Tuesday near Rockport, in South Texas, and was in the Aransas County Jail on Wednesday evening. He had been working on a shrimp boat in the area, according to U.S. marshals, who tracked him there with Austin police intelligence unit officers.
Crecente was fatally shot Feb. 15, 2006, in a wooded area near Copano Drive, in the neighborhood where she, Crabbe and Ramon all lived with their families.
In the days afterward, Ramon denied any participation in Crecente's death, according to a police affidavit.
When Crabbe was arrested Feb. 17, 2006, he told police that he and Crecente had plans to rent an apartment together and that the day Crecente was shot, he had given Ramon money to buy a gun for that apartment, the affidavit said.
Crabbe could not legally buy a gun because he had been convicted of burglary, stealing a car and evading arrest in 2005. He was sentenced to a prison boot camp for three months and then placed on probation.
After Ramon bought the gun, Crabbe told police, according to the affidavit, that they went with two others to a sporting goods store to buy ammunition. The affidavit said Crabbe told police that he hid the gun in a ditch in a wooded area and then went to the area with Ramon and Crecente.
Crabbe said that while he and Ramon were playing with the gun, Crecente was shot accidentally, the affidavit said.
After Crabbe pleaded guilty Wednesday, his lawyer, Jon Evans, said Crabbe and Crecente had made a murder/suicide pact that Crabbe was "too chicken" to follow through on.
Crecente's parents denied that.
Her father, Drew Crecente, called that allegation "disgusting." Her mother, Elizabeth Crecente, listed the reasons that it couldn't be true: Her daughter hated guns; the murder happened execution-style; Crecente would have found a way to say goodbye to family and friends.
Elizabeth Crecente said she was pleased that Ramon has been charged but lamented that 17 months after her daughter's death, she has to see another case through the courts.
"I am so frustrated," she said, "that we have to go through all of this again."
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