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Court records show St. Petersburg man killed his wife to end her pain

ST. PETERSBURG — The email arrived at 9:23 a.m. on a Saturday, but a full day passed before Marlea Roberts read it.

When she finally opened the message from her brother, Albert Crandall, on Sunday morning, April 22, she tried to tell herself it wasn't what it sounded like.

"(Judy) and I have departed this morning," Crandall had written. "The apartment is unlocked and we are together in the bedroom. Our wishes are to be cremated we request our remains be thrown into John's Pass in Treasure Island. …"

The call went out to emergency workers as a "double suicide." But when officers stormed Crandall's apartment, that wasn't what they found.

Judith Davis, 61, Crandall's wife, lay dead in a bed. Her husband lay beside her, weak and dazed, but alive. Crandall had suffocated his wife with a pillow, prosecutors said. Then he had tried to kill himself by slashing his wrists.

Documents recently released as part of the second-degree murder case against Crandall, 55, detail the grisly scene that authorities found that day.

But they also assemble a portrait of a sick woman who longed for an end to her physical and mental pain — and the man who wanted to give her that.

• • •

Officers swept through Crandall's apartment at 661 77th Ave. N with guns drawn just after 11:30 a.m. that Sunday. They moved through the living room, the kitchen, a spare bedroom and a bathroom before setting foot in the rear bedroom.

There, they found Davis' body supine on a bed, her head on a pillow.

Crandall lay beside her draped in a sheet. When an officer announced their presence and tugged at the sheet, he moaned and complained of pain in his wrists. Crime scene photographs memorialized a lurid and bloody scene.

In the kitchen, orange prescription pill bottles lined the countertop — clonazepam, loratadine, lisinopril. Red smudges marked the white cap of a bottle labeled hydrocodone, which sat ajar.

Asphyxiation was listed as the cause of death in Davis' autopsy report. But a contributory condition, medical examiners noted, was "temazepam intoxication." A bottle of the sleep-inducing prescription pills was also found atop the kitchen counter.

Crandall told police his wife died about 3 a.m. Saturday. He said she was in a lot of pain, officers noted. He sent the email to his sister later that morning. He also penned a note, which police found on a dining room table.

"To Our Families & Friends," the note began. "(Judy) has been in constant pain and agony for the past several months. No one has been helpful in helping her mainly due to our financial situation. This is the course of what happens when people like us with limited income and no insurance, if anything can come out of this hopefully people will find a message that … we all should have proper medical care when we need it.

"(Judy) and I have both battled our demons and for the most part compared to some we have had a good run," the note continued. "But it seemed to us that what we faced now was not where we wanted to be at this age, but to go out frail and in agony was not what we wanted either."

• • •

Crandall and Davis had been married only since 2009, Roberts testified in a deposition. But they had been a couple for nearly 20 years. His family knew that Davis had a drinking problem.

Davis didn't work, Roberts testified, and the couple struggled financially. Crandall had lost several jobs and pulled long hours at local restaurants.

But theirs was not an unhappy life. They never fought, Roberts said. And it was only recently that Davis' health deteriorated.

On May 12, 2011, Davis went to Windmoor Hospital in Clearwater for psychiatric treatment.

Medical records noted "suicidal ideations," and "alcohol abuse," Roberts said. She took medication for bipolar disorder.

Crandall worried about his wife. He called Roberts, an echocardiographer for a Clearwater health clinic, several times while Davis was in treatment.

Days after her release from Windmoor, Davis had a stroke. Days after that, she went back to the hospital with difficulty breathing.

Medical bills piled up.

In her final months, Davis lost weight, dropping to between 80 and 85 pounds, Roberts said. She was diagnosed with colitis — an inflammation of the intestines — and her stomach became severely distended.

On April 18, Roberts visited Davis while Crandall was at work. They talked about her condition. Davis didn't think she would see her next birthday.

"She wanted to go to sleep and not wake up," Roberts testified. "She was in so much pain. She looked — I hadn't seen her in a few months, and she looked so bad."

• • •

After being treated for the wounds to his wrists, Crandall was booked in the Pinellas County Jail. He remains jailed on a charge of second-degree murder and his next pretrial court hearing is scheduled for Dec. 3.

"There is no evidence found," a police report noted, "to document that the suspect carried out this act on behalf of the sick victim."

The full story is hard to say. The documents released by prosecutors tell only some of it. Some information has been removed from public view, including any statements that could be interpreted as confessions.

But the picture that does emerge is one of a couple resigned to fate.

"We had interesting lives," Crandall wrote in the email to his sister. "And do not let people say that this was anything other than two people who chose out because of the love we had for each other.

"We loved you all."

Dan Sullivan can be reached at (727) 893-8321 or dsullivan@tampabay.com.

Court records show St. Petersburg man killed his wife to end her pain 11/25/12 [Last modified: Sunday, November 25, 2012 10:11pm]
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