Child molester Warren Crawford sentenced to 80-100 years in prison

Victims continue to recover
2010-07-31T01:30:00Z Child molester Warren Crawford sentenced to 80-100 years in prisonBy TOM MORTON - Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

The victims and the parents of the victims of child molester Warren Jay Crawford declined to address Natrona County District Court at his sentencing hearing Friday.

That silence spoke volumes, prosecutor Stephanie Hambrick told District Judge Thomas Sullins.

Calling Crawford one of the worst sex offenders in county history, Hambrick told the court some of what his nine separate victims -- eight girls and one boy, ages 7 to 14 -- endured during his abuse in his vehicle, a barn and their own homes from 2005 to 2009.

"No child within Warren Crawford's reach was safe," Hambrick said.

She also read part of an 11-year-old girl's written statement for the presentence investigation.

"He abused her for three years, and threatened to kill her family if she told anyone," Hambrick said.

The girl suffers from nightmares and constant fear, Hambrick added.

However, she and others were brave enough to come forward and speak to authorities, Hambrick said.

The Star-Tribune does not identify the victims of sex crimes.

Police began to investigate Crawford last year after one girl came forward with allegations of sexual abuse. The girl told authorities he had also abused other children.

Investigators couldn't find him when they visited his home in September. They later tracked him to Hot Springs, Ark., where he was working for a frozen meat company.

"Crawford stated he was really sorry for what happened and stated he knew he was going to prison and was probably not going to get out," Casper police Detective Tim Doll wrote in a Sept. 21 affidavit. "He stated he wanted to get everything out so he didn't have to have the kids ever go to court."

Their testimony, coupled with Crawford's own admissions, helped prosecutors build a case that resulted in Crawford pleading guilty in March to 14 counts of sexual assault and sexual abuse of a minor. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss 21 other molestation charges for a prison sentence of between 80 and 100 years' imprisonment.

"We urge the court to accept the plea agreement and make sure Mr. Crawford never sees the light of day," Hambrick said.

At the time of the investigation, Crawford was already a registered sex offender. He was convicted of third-degree sexual assault of the daughter of his former girlfriend in Washakie County in 1997.

Crawford's public defender, Tim Cotton, told Sullins his client has accepted responsibility for what he did, and voluntarily returned from Arkansas to Natrona County to meet with authorities and face the charges.

Crawford himself said he wanted help for his child molesting behavior but could not receive the counseling he needed.

"I'll do anything in my power to do what anybody asks," he said.

Sullins accepted the terms of the plea agreement.

"[Mr. Crawford] is not a candidate for probation," he said. "I don't see any room whatsoever for leniency."

The case demanded a sentence that would remove Crawford from society and deter others from committing similar crimes, he said.

Between 20 and 30 family members of the victims paid close attention to the sentencing, and several applauded after the hearing was adjourned.

Crawford's mother tearfully waved goodbye as sheriff's deputies led him away.

Nancy Johnson, the victim witness coordinator for the district attorney's office, said after the hearing the families were too emotionally distraught to comment.

"As the parents have experienced, this has been the most difficult thing in their children's lives," Johnson said.

The victims' willingness to come forward helped begin their healing, she said. "It's a slow process."

Victims are eligible for counseling through Medicaid and the state's victim compensation program, she said.

District Attorney Mike Blonigen said the cases of Crawford and Casper truck driver Larry Lorenz Burg -- sentenced to 230 years in prison last year for molesting seven children -- give prosecutors little choice in sentencing recommendations.

"You get to the point where the sole goal is to lock them away," Blonigen said. "The only thing you can do with Larry Burg or Mr. Crawford is to isolate them."

But incarceration doesn't fix everything, he added.

Over time, victims of sexual abuse are more likely to become abusers themselves, Blonigen said.

They also suffer from high incidences of alcohol and substance abuse, depression and other mental health problems, and suicide, he said.

"The long-term impact is tremendous," Blonigen said.

Reach Tom Morton at (307) 266-0592, or at tom.morton@trib.com.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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