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Lucius Crawford's lawyer: Mental disability report could nix murder confessions

Mount Vernon police crime scene investigators work to

Mount Vernon police crime scene investigators work to gather evidence from the basement apartment at 7 Beekman Ave. in Mount Vernon, the residence of murder suspect Lucius Crawford, left. (Dec. 5, 2012) Photo Credit: Xavier Mascarenas

Alleged serial killer Lucius Crawford was found by mental health doctors to be "at a mild mentally retarded level" nearly 40 years ago after he went on a stabbing rampage of five women in South Carolina, according to court records from the case.

That finding will be used to challenge the legality of confessions he made to police after he was charged last week with stabbing a woman to death in his Mount Vernon basement apartment, Crawford's lawyer said. Authorities said Crawford, 60, also confessed to killing two Yonkers women in separate incidents in 1993.

Crawford's lawyer, Angelo MacDonald, said doctors' findings that Crawford has an IQ of 64 throw into question whether he knew what he was doing when he spoke to Yonkers, Mount Vernon and New York City police after the Dec. 4 killing of 41-year-old Tanya Simmons.

"That's why I doubt he voluntarily made those statements that police are saying he did," lawyer Angelo MacDonald said.

Because of Crawford's mental disability, MacDonald said he is considering asking a judge to throw out any statements Crawford made to police.

"They questioned him for a significant period of time," MacDonald told Newsday. "A judge could potentially suppress those statements, and that would leave the prosecution to rely on circumstantial evidence to establish a case against my client."

Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, declined to comment on the South Carolina findings or the current case against Crawford.

In the South Carolina case, Crawford confessed to stabbing five women in May 1973, according to court records. A judge ordered a mental health evaluation for Crawford at the South Carolina State Hospital. A team of physicians concluded that Crawford was not insane.

"However, our examination and psychological testing procedures reveal that Mr. Crawford is functioning at a mild mentally retarded level of intelligence," Dr. Karl Doskocil, the hospital superintendent, wrote in a June 25, 1973, letter to the judge.

Crawford's statements to police in 1973 reveal a lonely, angry man -- then only 21 -- who showed no remorse for his actions other than a fear that he would get caught.

"All these girl[s] talk to everybody else but won't talk to me," he told investigators, according to court papers. "Guess that's why I cut them -- I guess this is in my mind."

Crawford wound up spending more than three years in prison for stabbing five women in a week. But after being released in late 1976, according to court records, he went on another stabbing spree in April 1977, stabbing five women in about a month.

He was sentenced to 24 years in a South Carolina prison in 1977 and moved to New York after his parole in 1991.

In 1994, he stabbed a female co-worker 13 times after she spurned his advances. He was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 10-20 years in prison. He was released on parole in 2008 and required to wear an electronic ankle bracelet -- which he cut off some time before the death of Tanya Simmons, neighbors said.

Cold-case police from the Bronx and Yonkers found Simmons dead from multiple stab wounds when they went to Crawford's apartment on Beekman Avenue to question him about the 1993 killings of two Yonkers women -- Learonda Shealy and Nella West, who were stabbed to death. West's body was found dumped just over the Yonkers city line in Riverdale, the Bronx.

A source told Newsday on Monday that Crawford confessed to the killings, saying he killed West in Yonkers and dumped her body in the Bronx.

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