Lawrence Maurice Crawley choked and beat his ex-girlfriend Angela Maya Stith during an argument in May 2018, authorities said, and two months later began stalking her. Stith called police, authorities said, and texted Crawley begging him to leave her alone.
By August, Crawley had tried to buy a gun, police said, but was denied due to a permanent restraining order filed by another woman.
Hours later, he grabbed knives and a hammer, got into his 5,800-pound SUV, and drove to Stith’s workplace in Whitemarsh Township, Montgomery County, prosecutors said. After he arrived, authorities said, he ambushed Stith in the parking lot, chased her, stabbed her so aggressively that a knife broke off in her back, and then ran her over — and over and over again — with his Chevrolet Avalanche.
By the time police arrived, Stith, 33, was dead.
On Friday, Crawley, 34, of Philadelphia, sat in a Norristown courtroom as prosecutors and his defense attorney argued about which of the gruesome details a jury should be able to hear at his first-degree murder trial, which is set to begin in January.
Across the room, Stith’s mother sat stoically, hands clasped, in the front row of the gallery. At times, she looked directly at Crawley, whose face is covered with burns from a fire he set when police tried to arrest and charge him in Stith’s death.
Prosecutors argued that jurors should be able to hear about Crawley’s history of domestic-violence charges, saying they provide a window into his mindset and show his intent to kill. Crawley’s public defender, Carrie Allman, said his past is irrelevant in this case.
Allman also asked Montgomery County Judge Thomas C. Branca not to allow statements Crawley made when interviewed by Whitemarsh Township investigators at a Pittsburgh hospital — where Crawley was taken after state police stopped him 80 miles east of Pittsburgh and he set the fire in his car.
Crawley made those statements while being treated for burns on nearly 30% of his body, and days after being taken out of a medically induced coma, Allman said. He was on pain medications, including fentanyl, Allman added, and could not understand what was happening.
But Whitemarsh Township Detective William Mitchell Jr. said Crawley was alert during the two-hour interview and answered questions willingly. Mitchell said nurses told him that Crawley had been asking about the locations of the hospital’s emergency exits, which made them concerned he might try to flee, he said.
Branca said he would hand down decisions on these matters at a later date.
Crawley, authorities say, attacked Stith about 2:15 a.m. on Aug, 3, 2018, while she sat in her red Toyota Solara during a break from her night shift at Vector Security, which is in an office park off Butler Pike near the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Her coworkers watched on surveillance cameras as Crawley approached Stith, authorities said, and as Crawley then chased her as she ran from the car.
Two coworkers ran outside to try to help her, according to the video, which was shown at Crawley’s preliminary hearing last year. Crawley ran off into the darkness, the video shows, but then returned in his SUV and drove over Stith three times.
A coworker relayed the unfolding horror to a 911 operator. “Oh, my God, he just ran her over," the woman said. "She’s mangled.… He keeps coming back.”
Crawley faces charges of first- and third-degree murder and related offenses.
In the May case, in which he was charged with choking and beating Stith in Montour County, he ultimately pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of simple assault and was ordered to pay a $170 fine, according to court records. Research shows that choking is a strong predictor of homicide.
Three years earlier, Crawley was charged with battery, assault with a deadly weapon, and false imprisonment in Duval County, Fla. He pleaded guilty to battery and was sentenced to a year in prison, court records show.