A Montgomery County jury took just two hours Thursday to convict a North Philadelphia man of first-degree murder of his ex-girlfriend outside her workplace, a crime captured on camera.
Lawrence Crawley, 34, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison for killing Angela Stith in August 2018, the first murder in Whitemarsh Township in nearly two decades. The jury of nine men and three women also found him guilty of possessing an instrument of a crime and making false statements while trying to purchase a gun. He will be sentenced April 3.
District Attorney Kevin Steele, who prosecuted the case, said afterward that Crawley “cannot be punished enough.”
“This case was one of the worst that I have ever seen," Steele said. “This is the face of domestic violence.
“She has three kids, and he knew about that," he continued, "but all he cared about was him, and so the bigger picture on this is that domestic violence has a face, and it was the face you guys have on your cameras from coming out here.”
Crawley’s attorney, Carrie Allman, declined to comment on the verdict.
Steele noted that Crawley, 34, drove to Vector Security, where Stith worked as a dispatcher, at 2 a.m., his truck loaded with bleach, duct tape, and the murder weapons.
When she emerged, Crawley repeatedly stabbed Stith. Her coworkers chased him away, but he returned minutes later and ran over her with his Chevrolet Avalanche.
“He’s there, lying in wait,” Steele said. “And he attempts to kill [Stith] by stabbing her with a knife. Then he uses a Chevy Avalanche as a deadly weapon. There’s nine times his actions showed a specific intent to kill.”
Then Crawley fled, driving west toward Pittsburgh. State troopers caught up with him in a tunnel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, pulling him out of his vehicle after he slit his wrist and set himself on fire.
Allman disputed Steele’s characterization of the events. She insisted that Crawley’s actions, which she described as “chaotic,” were the result of blinding rage triggered by a phone call with Stith.
“I’m not saying he didn’t commit a crime. I’m not saying he didn’t commit a serious crime,” Allman said. “I’m saying this is not first-degree murder.”
She said Crawley’s actions were not premeditated and stemmed from the couple’s “complicated relationship," which had recently ended. Third-degree murder, she said, was the appropriate charge.
“If he planned to kill her and he did so, and he runs off, why doesn’t he keep running?” Allman said. “Why does he get into that truck and come back? It’s because he’s in a rage.”
Prosecutors rested after two days of testimony, during which jurors heard from the investigators who pieced together the final hours of Stith’s life.
Allman rested without calling a witness and Crawley did not take the stand.
On Wednesday, county detectives had detailed Crawley’s behavior in the week before the violent attack. He visited Stith’s house in East Germantown, sitting on its steps, and at one point confronted one of Stith’s male friends as he walked out, investigators said.
“Stay away from me,” Stith texted Crawley afterward. She warned him not to even drive by her house and threatened to file a restraining order against him.
Cellphone records displayed in court showed Crawley didn’t listen. He followed Stith and her three children to the AMC Theater on Broad Street near Temple University. And he continued to text Stith and call her, sometimes blocking his number. He pleaded with her to reconsider, saying he was still in love with her.
On Aug. 2, 2018, hours before he killed Stith, Crawley posted on Facebook.
“It’s been a challenge,” he wrote as he was standing in a gun store in Philadelphia in an aborted attempt to buy a firearm. “Still not quite figured it out. I’ll try to do something that puts me at peace.”