Andre Crawford Gets Life Sentence

Chicago man was convicted earlier this month in the rapes and murders of 11 women

A Cook County jury has spared the life of a Chicago man convicted in the rapes and murders of 11 women between 1993 and 1999.

A jury earlier this month took 10 hours to find Andre Crawford guilty of the crimes, convicting him on all counts.  A unanimous verdict by the same jury was required for a death sentence. 

Crawford sat unmoving in the courtroom as the jurors' finding was read aloud by Judge Evelyn Clay at the Cook County Criminal Court's building. His fingers interlaced before him, he showed no reaction, no emotion, even as soft gasps rose from the courtroom gallery, then sobs.

"It only takes two killings to be eligible for death.  It was 11.  What kind of justice is that?" asked Rena Carlock, the sister of Patricia Dunn, one of Crawford's victims.

The brother of another victim, Cheryl Cross, said he saw Crawford smile when the verdict was announced.

"I saw the smile on his face, and it was a very sinister smile," said Derrick Cotton.

Claudia Robinson, the only woman to survive Crawford's attacks, wept as she denounced the jury's decision.

"What the justice did today tells every criminal they can kill and live," she said.

Other family members speculated as to why a single holdout on the jury refused to sentence Crawford to death.

"They thought about, 'OK, we're going to put a man to death right before Christmas.  How is that going to feel on our conscious?" one man said.

Crawford was arrested in 2000 and accused in the series of rapes and murders. One victim was assaulted and left for dead on Thanksgiving night of 1997 but survived. Prosecutors alleged the victims were prostitutes and drug addicts who agreed to trade sex for narcotics but were instead attacked and then raped as they lay dying.

He pleaded not guilty, but DNA evidence linked him to the deaths of Patricia Dunn, Rhonda King, Angel Shatteen, Shaquanta Langley, Sonja Brandon, Nicole Townsend, Cheryl Cross, Tommie Dennis, Sheryl Johnson, Constance Bailey and Evandrey Harris.

Crawford's lawyers argued his life should be spared because of sexual abuse and mistreatment as a child, but Asst. Cook County States Attorney Jim McKay said someone who brutalized and killed 11 women doesn't merit mercy.

This is the third death penalty trial in Illinois in the past three months. Brian Dugan was sentenced to death, and James Degorski was sentenced to life in prison.

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