Crowder gets life for murder of wife

COVINGTON – Darrell Antonio Crowder was sentenced Friday evening to life plus 35 years for the murder of his estranged wife in Newton County in 2008.

One day after his trial began in Newton County Superior Court, a jury found Crowder, 52, who was living with his mom in Decatur at the time of the incident, guilty of malice murder, burglary, cruelty to children and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

After the conviction, Newton County Superior Court Judge Eugene M. Benton sentenced the defendant to life plus 35 years for 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, according to Senior Assistant District Attorney Melanie Bell.

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

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 daughter, who testified during the trial, 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.

Darrell Crowder was convicted of beating down the door to the house, which they once shared until they separated in 2005, and then kicking 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.

He was accused of leaving his overnight job at a post office distribution center in Atlanta to commit the murder. 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 was used by the state as evidence in the trial. 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.

Public defender Jennifer Arndt said in her opening statements Thursday that the state didn't have enough evidence that wasn’t circumstantial to prove that he committed the crime.