Monday, Nov 24, 2014

St. Pete man sentenced to 15 years for smothering wife

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CLEARWATER A man convicted of smothering his wife with a pillow was sentenced to 15 years in prison today, despite his family's pleas for leniency.

Albert Crandall, 56, went on trial in May on charges of second-degree murder, for which he could have received a life sentence. Instead, a jury found him guilty of manslaughter, a lesser crime.

Crandall suffocated his wife, Judith Lee Davis, 61, at the apartment they shared at Palmway Village apartments, at 661 77th Ave. N. in St. Petersburg, in April 2012. He then tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists.

He sent his sister an email on April 21 saying he and Judith were going to "depart from this world," but his sister didn't read the message until the following day. Once she did, she called 911 and rushed over, according to police reports.

The sister, Marlea Roberts, told St. Petersburg police her sister-in-law had bipolar disorder and suffered from a severe intestinal problem that caused her to lose weight, reports say. Davis weighed 80 to 90 pounds, her stomach was bloated, and she was in severe pain, Roberts said.

Roberts also told police her brother was overwhelmed by caring for his wife and had lost several jobs as a result. Davis did not have any medical insurance, and the medical bills were piling up, Roberts told police.

Today, she, her sister Cheryl Burgett, and Brett Mazzucco, for whom Crandall worked as a kitchen manager at a WingHouse, asked Pinellas Circuit Judge Michael Andrews for leniency.

So did Crandall.

"I present no danger to society," he said. "Fourteen months ago, having lost my wife, I made the decision to take my own life to join my wife in death.

"I've come to learn since then," he said, with the help of mental health counseling and a renewed spirituality.

"It is His will we must follow."

Under sentencing guidelines, Crandall was facing a minimum sentence of nine years and five months. But Assistant State Attorney Kate Alexander asked Pinellas Circuit Judge Michael Andrews for 15 years, the maximum allowed. Among other things, she noted, Crandall's self-inflicted wounds turned out to be minor.

Assistant Public Defender Irina Hughes argued for the lower sentence.

"He killed her because her family was religious, and it would be a disgrace to her family if she killed herself, so he did it and after that attempted suicide."

None of Davis' family appeared in court today.

Andrews agreed with prosecutors.

"It was not a dignified death," Andrews said. "I'm less than convinced that at the time of her death that she wanted to die."

sthompson@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-6504

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