Florida mother accused of killing newly born daughter convicted by Okaloosa County jury
Mother-of-three, Tonisha Lache Crowell, 33, was found guilty of first-degree murder in death of her infant
Crowell was sentenced to life in prison for killing her daughter Ricki, in Fort Walton Beach, Fla
Crowell’s baby daughter was found dead inside a plastic trash bag in a ditch outside a home Crowell shared with five others, in Feb 2014
She was charged with premeditated murder in late Feb 2014, soon Ricki’s body was found mixed with household thrash
Emotional family members, including her children and Rickey Patterson, the father of the murder victim, embraced one another, tears streaming down their faces, after the verdict
Tonisha Lache Crowell has been found guilty of first-degree premeditated murder in the death of her newborn baby and will spend the rest of her life in prison.
A woman from Fort Walton Beach, Florida has been found guilty of first-degree premeditated murder in the death of her newborn baby and will spend the rest of her life in prison.
Discarding defence arguments that baby Ricki’s umbilical cord had ruptured during what had been an unexpected birth, meaning the little girl was dead at birth, a jury deliberated about four hours Wednesday before returning with its verdict against Tonisha Lache Crowell, 33.
Circuit Judge John Brown passed sentence immediately after jurors were polled to confirm their unanimous decision.
Then 29-year-old Tonisha Crowell was charged with premeditated murder in late February of 2014, soon after her newborn daughter, Ricki, was discovered inside a plastic bag, filled with household trash, that had been stashed in a ditch outside the Fort Walton Beach area home she shared with five others.
“She never intended, when she delivered her, she never intended for this baby to live.” Prosecutor Angela Mason delivers her rebuttal against Crowell during closing, in court
Prosecuting attorney Angela Mason said Crowell had purposely hidden the fact she was pregnant from people around her.
Crowell had not spoken of the pregnancy and gave birth alone in a downstairs bathroom because she was planning all along to dispose of the child, Mason said: “She had months to decide what to do with this baby,” Mason said in her closing argument, citing evidence indicating Crowell learned in October, 2013 of the impending birth.
“She never intended, when she delivered her, she never intended for this baby to live.”
Defense attorney Donald Witmyer contended, unsuccessfully, that blood evidence found in the bathroom indicated the child’s umbilical cord had ruptured during what had been an unexpected birth and little Ricki was dead at birth or shortly thereafter.
Witmyer said Crowell had panicked after the birth, leading her to make terrifically bad decisions regarding the disposal of the body.
“She sat down to have a bowel movement and a baby came out. That’s not normal, that’s not expected,” Witmyer said in closing. “That causes panic to the point of hyperventilating.”
29-year-old Tonisha Crowell was charged with premeditated murder in late Feb 2014, accused of killing er her newborn daughter, Ricki. The baby was discovered inside a plastic bag, filled with household trash, in a ditch outside the Fort Walton Beach, Fla home
Tonisha Lache Crowell listens as the sentence was read out Wednesday
Mason credited jurors for taking the time to weigh all the evidence introduced during the two-day trial.
“This was a very emotional case, as it is any time the death of a child is involved,” she said. “We are very grateful … to the jury that clearly studied the evidence and rendered a just verdict.”
Mason also thanked the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office investigators who worked for four years to obtain the verdict reached Wednesday.
The emotion was evident as Crowell wept following the verdict and family members, including her children and Rickey Patterson, the father of the child murder victim, embraced one another with tears streaming down their faces.
One of the defendant’s children, a daughter named Bella, was allowed into the area of the courtroom typically reserved for those directly involved in the case to say goodbye to her mother.
Crowell’s other surviving child, 9-year-old named Jalin who provided key prosecution testimony Tuesday, shied away from saying good bye, choosing to hide behind his father when reporters approached. The bereaved dad, Rickey Patterson, with his arm around Jalin as he left the Okaloosa County Courthouse Annex Extension, waved off a reporter seeking comment: “Not now,” the teary Patterson said.
Prosecutors lead Crowell’s 9-year-old son Jalin, in testimony against the defendant, May 1
Witmyer was able to secure one victory in his defense of Crowell by convincing the First Judicial Circuit’s State Attorney’s Office to withdraw a motion filed in late 2016 to seek the death penalty.
With the death penalty off the table, Brown was obligated, by state law, to sentence Crowell to life in prison without parole, the only penalty available to him on the first-degree murder charge.
Crowell has 30 days to appeal the verdict. Witmyer declined comment on the case.