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Trial started Thursday in 2008 murder

COVINGTON -- The felony murder trial against Darrell Antonio Crowder began Thursday in Newton County Superior Court.

Crowder, 52, who was living with his mom in Decatur at the time of the incident, is charged with one count of murder, two counts of felony murder, aggravated assault, burglary, cruelty to children in the second degree, three counts of possession of a firearm during commission of a felony and two counts of cruelty to children in the third degree. He was charged with the murder of Catcilia Crowder at her home at 120 Lake Lucinda Drive in western Newton County in the early morning hours of Jan. 16, 2008.

In December 2009, Crowder pleaded guilty to malice murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in connection with the murder, but he has since changed his plea to not guilty.

State prosecutors told jurors Thursday morning that Catcilia Crowder, who was 43 at the time of her death, was found shot and not breathing in her bathtub by their 16-year-old daughter and her 13-year-old cousin.

The state alleges that the daughter was sleeping when she was awakened by banging at the door. When she heard the door kicked in, she hid in her sister's bedroom and heard three gunshots and the perpetrator exit the house. After she saw the headlights on the car pull away from their house, she ran to wake her cousin and then went to her mom's bathroom, where they found her dead.

The state alleges that Darrell Crowder beat down the door to the house, which they once shared until they separated in 2005, and then kicked in the two doors in Catcilia Crowder's bedroom while she was hiding in the bathroom.

About 15 minutes before he arrived, Catcilia Crowder had sent him a text that read, "Everything you do in the dark comes to light." The text was apparently sent after she learned that he was accused of molesting a family member some time in the past.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Melanie Bell said Crowder left his overnight job at a post office distribution center in Atlanta to commit the murder.

She told jurors that cell phone and text messaging records, cell towers that traced his location as he made phone calls from Atlanta to Covington that night and accounts from family and coworkers who previously heard him threaten to kill his estranged wife will prove his guilt. Additionally, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found shell casings at his home that were fired from the same gun that left shell casings in the victim's home, she said.

However, public defender Jennifer Arndt said the state doesn't have enough evidence to prove that he committed the crime.

"It's circumstantial," she told jurors.

Arndt said no eyewitnesses saw the crime, and another fingerprint not belonging to Darrell Crowder was found on the outside door to the home when deputies were investigating the crime.

"Nobody is saying that this is not a tragedy or that she deserved it, but that's not evidence," Arndt said.

The trial is expected to continue today at the Newton County Courthouse.