Crain is sentenced to death for murder

Published Nov. 20, 1999|Updated Sept. 30, 2005

The convicted molester gets the ultimate penalty for the murder and a life sentence for kidnapping.

Kathy Hartman says it felt good to hear Willie Crain get sentenced to death Friday for kidnapping and killing her 7-year-old daughter last year.

Then, on the way out of the courtroom, the realization that Amanda's body might never be found sank in yet again. Hartman covered her face with both hands and sobbed.

"I just now realized the extent of it," she said. "My baby's gone. It's never going to be over because he's never going to tell me what he did with her. I just want to know what happened to her."

Crain, 53, was convicted in September of snatching Amanda from her home and killing her.

A convicted child molester, Crain had met Hartman the night before the girl disappeared in September 1998 at a bar where one of his daughters worked. The next day, he went to her home in Seffner for a spaghetti dinner. There, he played tic-tac-toe with Amanda, helped her with her homework and gave her $2.

Later, he invited mother and daughter to his Tampa mobile home to watch the movie Titanic, and spent some time alone in a bedroom with Amanda. The three returned to Hartman's home and ended up in the bedroom. Hartman, her senses dulled by alcohol and five Valiums Crain had given her, fell asleep on the bed. Amanda was gone when she woke up the next day. Her body has not been found.

Detectives think Crain dumped Amanda's body in Tampa Bay, perhaps weighing it down with one of the crab traps he used to make his living. Investigators said he scrubbed his bathroom with bleach, but they found drops of her blood on his toilet and underwear.

In sentencing Crain to death, Circuit Judge Barbara Fleischer gave great weight to Crain's previous record, the fact that the murder took place during a kidnapping, and Amanda's age. In 1985, he was convicted of raping five girls. Three of them, now adults, testified at his trial. Jurors voted 12-0 to recommend the death penalty.

Fleischer gave less weight to mitigating factors brought forth by the defense, including Crain's drug and alcohol abuse, his second-grade education, his barren childhood, a possible brain injury and the possibility that mental problems affected his judgment at the time of the murder.

"Unfortunately," Fleischer concluded, "this court is convinced that he was functioning all too well. He worked the mother to get to the child. He gave the mother drugs, lent her money, complimented her and made sexual advances toward her. Then he worked the child. He helped her with her homework, gave her money and played games with her. Then he took the child. Finally, he murdered the child."

After the sentencing, in a telephone interview from the county jail, Crain continued to deny it all.

"I've been railroaded all the way through this case," he said. He contended that the blood from Amanda Brown must have come from a loose tooth she had when she visited his trailer.

"Evidently, when she was in my bathroom, she was wiggling her tooth and she touched my underwear" lying on top of the toilet tank, he said. "They have convicted me on three drops of blood and haven't even proved that anyone was killed."

Crain said he had expected to get the death penalty, which is why he nodded, as if in agreement, when Fleischer pronounced his sentence. But he shook his head "no" several times when Fleischer described allegations about his brain injury and mental problems.

"I don't think I got no brain injury," he said. "Somebody's full of c--- there. Somebody wanted to make it look like I was nuts. I know exactly what's going on in my life. I know I'm innocent."

Outside the courtroom, Crain's oldest daughter said she felt torn.

"I just don't know," Patricia Davis said after watching her father sentenced to death. "I pray every night that that child will show up.

"My heart goes out to this family, and I'm sorry," she added. "I'm a mother, too. If my father's truly guilty, then he deserves the death penalty. But he tells me he's innocent and I have to believe him."

Hartman said she can't even put up a memorial to Amanda because she wouldn't know where to put it. Her ex-husband and Amanda's father, Roy Brown, said he feels the same way.

"It's over, but there's still no closure," Brown said. "You have a car wreck, you grieve, you have a funeral and you go on. This here, I've got no place to go. I don't know where Amanda is."

Along with the death sentence, Fleischer sentenced Crain to life in prison for the kidnapping. He still faces allegations that he raped two other girls more than 25 years ago.