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Mother of cold case victim had prayed that attacker was dead

Jeffrey Norman Crum, 53, is charged with sexual battery and attempted murder.

Dorothy Murray Fagan long believed the unidentified man who brutally raped and nearly bludgeoned her teenage daughter to death in Pasco County 23 years ago was dead.

"At church, we thought our prayers had killed him a long time ago," she said.

So when the 68-year-old's phone rang this week in her Brooklyn, N.Y., home and Pasco County Sheriff's Detective David Boyer told her deputies had caught the man, she was in shock.

"I could not believe it," she said. "It was a miracle."

Authorities announced Thursday that they had arrested Jeffrey Norman Crum, 53, of Holiday and charged him with sexual battery and attempted murder of Fagan's daughter, Carolyn Murray. Murray was 17 on Jan. 16, 1992, when investigators allege Crum intercepted her as she got off the school bus and led her behind a vacant house. There, authorities allege Crum hit her over the head with a blunt object so hard it crushed part of her skull and caused her to lose part of her brain.

The cold case had gone unsolved for more than two decades until Florida Department of Law Enforcement specialists, using a sophisticated technique called familial DNA searching, were able to link DNA from semen left at the scene with that of Crum's son, Jeffrey Crum II, 34, who is in prison. That finally led them to the elder Crum, who was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon.

The Times usually does not identify sexual assault victims, but Murray was identified in 1992 when authorities did not disclose details of a sex crime. On Friday, Fagan, reached by phone in Brooklyn, gave her assent to having her daughter identified now as well.

Fagan said, "I give God thanks. She's come a long way because this is a girl that was supposed to be dead."

Fagan said Murray had been staying with her godmother in Spring Hill in 1992 because Fagan, a single mother, needed help raising the teen while working full time. Murray attended Land O'Lakes High School and would travel back to Brooklyn during breaks and summer.

On the afternoon of the incident, Murray's godmother knew something was awry at 3:01 p.m., when the teen wasn't home in time to catch her favorite show, the soap opera General Hospital. The family found her a few hours later behind a nearby vacant house, lying in her own blood. She was airlifted by helicopter to an area hospital.

When doctors got their first look at Murray, they believed she wouldn't survive, Fagan said. The teen was in a coma and underwent two surgeries on what remained of her brain. When she awoke, her left side was paralyzed and she could not form full sentences.

To this day Murray, now 40, cannot speak in full sentences. She communicates through broken syntax and individual words, and by using her right hand, according to her mother.

Despite the paralysis, Murray strengthened to the point of being able to walk around with a cane, Fagan said. Though, she's prone to falling, and recently broke her right leg, the good one, in a tumble.

Murray has been in a full-time care facility in Brooklyn for two years, and Fagan visits daily, or close to it. Fagan had been caring for her daughter but had to stop to attend to her own declining health. The former nurses' aid is diabetic and has high blood pressure and back problems.

Even though Murray's head has healed closed, some wounds remain open.

"She's emotionally disturbed," Fagan said. Sometimes Murray panics when staff try to move her from her bed to a wheelchair, because she fears she may be raped. And she can't look out the window, either, for fear of what she might see.

Fagan said she anticipates telling her daughter soon in simple terms that her alleged attacker has been arrested: "Carolyn, you don't have to be scared anymore. You can look out the window again.

"Bad guy caught."

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or Follow @josh_solomon15.