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Supreme Court upholds murder conviction in Newton County case

COVINGTON — The Supreme Court of Georgia has upheld the murder conviction and life sentence of a man who shot and killed his estranged wife in 2008.

The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the sentence of Darrell Crowder in the killing of Catcilia Crowder, 43, whose body was found in the bathtub of her west Newton home by their teenage daughter.

In his appeal, Crowder argued that the public defender who represented him was incompetent and failed to present key evidence in his defense.

Writing for the court in an opinion released Monday, Justice Robert Benham stated that Crowder “failed to show that his trial counsel rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance,” and the evidence at trial “was sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find (Crowder) guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes for which he was convicted.”

According to evidence presented at trial, Crowder, who was 49 at the time, killed his estranged wife in the early morning hours of Jan. 16, 2008, at her home on Lake Lucinda Drive.

According to the prosecution, the Crowders, who had been separated for several years, were arguing during the day via text messages.

Darrell Crowder worked at a post office distribution center on Crown Road in Atlanta and came to the Lake Lucinda Drive house sometime after 3 a.m. on Jan. 16. Prosecutors said Crowder kicked in the back door of the home and fired shots toward his wife. When the victim ran into her bedroom and then into a bathroom, Crowder shot through the bathroom door, striking her in the shoulder.

Prosecutors said Crowder then kicked in the bathroom door, forced his way in and shot the victim twice more in the head.

Crowder fled the scene, but the noise awakened the couple’s teenage daughter, who discovered her mother’s body in the bathtub.

After killing his wife, Crowder returned to his job at the post office, arriving sometime between 5 and 6 a.m.

At trial, the state presented evidence showing that Crowder’s cell phone traveled to Newton County during the time that he was away from work. Investigators found text messages between the two the night of the murder in which the victim called Crowder “scum,” said he was dead to his daughters, and included references to her sexual relationships with other men.

The couple’s daughter testified that the relationship between her parents had been “rocky” for several years, and that her mother had told her about recent allegations that Darrell Crowder had molested a cousin several years earlier while the cousin was living with the family.

In his appeal, Crowder argued that the court was wrong to allow the jury to hear about the child molestation allegation.

“Here the evidence regarding the molestation allegation explained the escalating tension between (Crowder) and the victim, including the exchange of heated text messages between them on the day of the crime,” the court’s opinion states. “Since the evidence was admissible to show motive, there was no error.”

The court also rejected Crowder’s argument that his defense was ineffective for failing to call a witness who could have testified that the DNA of a man who was not Crowder was found in the victim’s mouth. But at the hearing on his motion requesting a new trial, Crowder did not produce a witness to give that testimony or offer what the witness would have testified.