Victoria Godwin was known for not backing down.
“She drank her beer. She drank her liquor,” said a neighbor. “She did what she had to do. She stood her ground.”
So it came as no surprise that Godwin would sometimes take in a friend whose husband reportedly beat her.
But on Tuesday night, 49-year-old Michael Crumpton found his wife at Godwin’s home in the Emma Wheeler public housing complex at 4931 Woodland View Circle. Godwin was standing on a neighbor’s porch when she watched Crumpton enter her home.
“She said, ‘Do not shut my door,’” said the neighbor who was friends with Godwin, but declined to be named out of fear of retaliation. “When he looked like he was shutting the door, she said, ‘Wait right here. I’ll be back.’”
But Godwin never returned.
The sounds of breaking glass and pleas from Crumpton’s wife saying, “Stop, Michael. Stop, Michael. Stop, Michael,” soon followed, the neighbors said.
Crumpton began choking Godwin and punching her in the back of the head, according to police reports. The beating continued until Godwin’s body fell to the ground, where she was found lying motionless and unresponsive on the floor, police said. Witnesses said they saw Crumpton run out of Godwin’s apartment.
Godwin was pronounced dead upon arrival at Erlanger hospital.
“[Godwin] had put him out because he jumped on his [wife] once before,” the neighbor said. “She didn’t want him back. ... She went over there. She went into the line of fire.”
Crumpton was arrested Wednesday and charged with criminal homicide. As of Wednesday afternoon, he remained in Hamilton County Jail on a $200,000 bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for June 14 in General Sessions Court.
Godwin recently began working at McDonald’s, the neighbor said, but in the past she taken drastic steps to make ends meet. The neighbor often gave her clothes to wear.
“She was a nice people,” the neighbor said. “When you get out there and do things like they see men coming into your house, they think the worst of you. ... You got to do what you got to do to keep your household going.”
Crumpton was released from federal prison in January, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website. He was convicted of carrying a firearm as a felon and sentenced to 17 1/2 years with five years of supervised release in June 1993, according to court records.
He was released from prison in November 2008 but later violated the terms of release when he tested positive for cocaine in June 2009. He also failed to provide urine samples at other times and did not report to his probation officer, according to records. He was sentenced to 20 months in prison for violating the terms, according to records.
Since his release, Crumpton has kept local authorities busy.
In 2009, he was charged with aggravated robbery, but the case was dismissed, records show.
In 2010, he was charged with escape after he left the Hamilton County Jail even though he knew federal authorities were coming to pick him up, records show. The case was dismissed.
In April, he was arrested on a charge of aggravated domestic assault after he left his wife’s face swollen and knocked her front teeth loose, according to a Chattanooga police report. The case was dismissed when she failed to show up for court.
Ben Boyer, the Hamilton County assistant district attorney who prosecuted the aggravated assault case, said it’s not uncommon for domestic violence victims to miss court dates or ask not to press charges.
“But now, as a result of not being able to do something with that case, we have an allegation he did something terrible to someone else last night,” Boyer said. “Perhaps something could have been done last month.”
Godwin’s death marks the city’s 13th homicide of the year.
Contact staff writer Beth Burger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6406.