Slaying suspect waives hearing; case headed to grand jury

Slaying suspect waives hearing; case headed to grand jury

July 7th, 2011 by Todd South in News

Assistant district attorney Ben Boyer, right, speaks to witnesses called for Michael Crumpton's criminal homicide case that Judge Bob Moon bound over to the grand jury Wednesday.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Michael L. Crumpton

For the third time since Victoria Godwin died of a severe beating and strangulation June 7, a group of witnesses came to court.

And for the third time they did not get called to the stand.

On Wednesday, defendant Michael Crumpton waived his right to a preliminary hearing in Hamilton County General Sessions Court. His criminal homicide charge will be sent to the grand jury for possible indictment.

Wendy Stanfield, Crumpton's court-appointed attorney, would not discuss why the pair decided not to have the hearing.

"That would go into strategy, and I can't discuss that," she said.

Crumpton has appeared in court twice in the case. At his arraignment hearing, the charges were read and the court agreed to appoint an attorney for him. At the second hearing, Stanfield asked the court for more time to talk with Crumpton because she'd only just met him.

Stanfield said she would continue to represent Crumpton if he is indicted.

Shirley Pittman, a 69-year-old neighbor of Godwin, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press after the hearing that she saw Crumpton and a woman stay overnight with Godwin for two to three weeks before her death.

Police arrested Crumpton shortly after responding to an emergency call from neighbors who heard screaming and breaking glass in Godwin's apartment at the Emma Wheeler public housing complex.

Pittman said her apartment backs up to Godwin's and is about 20 to 30 feet away. The night Godwin died, Pittman said she was looking through her apartment window and saw Crumpton and the woman approach Godwin's back door. Crumpton went inside and the woman squatted down near a bush outside.

When Pittman heard screaming coming from Godwin's apartment, she said the woman outside said, "No Michael, don't do it," then ran away.

A medical examiner's report details signs of beating and strangulation and a "grapefruit-sized bruise" on Godwin's head.

Pittman said police did not question her when they investigated the initial call. She went to the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office to share what she saw, she said.

In the courtroom and in the hallway after the brief hearing Wednesday, Pittman was flanked by three other women who lived near Godwin and have attended previous court hearings.

Crumpton has been in custody on $200,000 bond at the Hamilton County Jail since his arrest.

He had served more than 17 years in federal prison on weapons-related charges unrelated to this most recent allegation.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347.