TALLAHASSEE – Angie Crowley was making her first long trip through Florida on Memorial Day weekend in 1986 and was taking extra care to make sure she’d arrive OK.
This was in the time before cellphones and GPS, and she was prone to getting lost, so she spent three hours on the phone with her brother Chris before making the 300-mile drive from Fort Lauderdale to Yankeetown. Chris was 1,300 miles away in Oregon, Ill., and both laid maps out on the floor to plan a route.
“We just sort of mapped it out together. It was 1986 – the old school way,” he said.
Crowley, 21, never arrived at her destination. She prearranged with her friend to meet at a convenience store in Crystal River so she could be guided the last few miles of the trip. Crowley found the store, but before she could get to the pay phone, William Happ smashed her car window, kidnapped her. He beat her, raped her and strangled her with her pants before throwing her body into a canal.
Now, more than 27 years later, Happ is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday at Florida State Prison in Starke. It’s a day Chris Crowley has pushed for through an online petition and an email campaign to Gov. Rick Scott’s office.
“He killed my sister, he took her life. But when he took that life, he created so many other victims,” Crowley said. “What he did affected everybody. It ate my mother up. I changed jobs and moved all within three months.”
The murder shook Oregon, a small town about 40 miles southwest of Rockford, Ill. Angie Crowley was a popular student at Oregon High School. After graduating, she attended Northern Illinois University before moving to Fort Lauderdale in December 1985. She worked as a travel agent to help pursue her dreams to travel the world.
“He took away the potential. There were seven kids in that family and she had the greatest potential of everybody. She had the personality, she had the looks, she had the smarts and she had the attitude. She really, really accomplished things and he took that,” Crowley said. “We were never able to see it.”
And the praise is not just because he’s a loving brother. Angie Crowley’s friends said she had a magnetic personality. She was a talented musician, honor student and a cheerleader with tons of friends. Always smiling, she never said anything bad about anybody.
“She was a sweetheart. Everybody just loved her, she had a great personality. She was prom queen, she was homecoming queen. She was just a gorgeous, gorgeous girl,” said Jim Kaufman, a classmate who visited Crowley in Florida just before her slaying. “All of her classmates were devastated. Everybody in the whole town was. The whole town from young to older people knew her very well. She was very, very outgoing.”
She was also a thoughtful friend who made great efforts to stay connected, said Sharon McBreen, who moved from Illinois to Florida in 10th grade.
Not only did Crowley write long letters, but she mailed McBreen a senior yearbook signed by all her former classmates. Crowley’s note in the book was two-pages long.
“She was just one of those really good friends who never missed your birthday. The card was always on time. She would write me six-page letters,” McBreen said. “She would just write, front and back. She filled these letters with everything that was going on in town, and what she was thinking and what she wanted to do.”
She loved her new home in Florida. In Oregon, she often spent time on the Rock River waterskiing and boating and she was happy to be living near the ocean. And coming from a small town, she was excited about being in South Florida and was looking forward to more travel adventures – she booked a trip to Hawaii with her mother. That trip never happened because of the murder.
McBreen traveled from Gainesville to Fort Lauderdale the weekend Crowley was murdered. At one point Crowley had talked about staying in town if McBreen was going to be there. But instead she kept her plans to meet a friend from college and spend some time on the Gulf coast.
“It’s before cellphones and before Google Maps, she’s trying to take a trip and she took all these precautions. She put a radio in the back seat to play loud so she wouldn’t fall asleep, she told her roommates where she was going, she had this whole route all mapped out,” McBreen said. “She was very careful anyway, so she took all these steps to make sure she was going to have a safe trip.”
Her friend fell asleep waiting for the phone call to meet Crowley. When she woke the next morning, she alerted Crowley’s family that she was missing and a search began. Later that day, a fisherman found her body.
“She just ran across this guy, and that was it. It was just completely random,” said McBreen. “When you think about random crimes, how random could it have been that she was there at the same time he was?”