Eugene Frazier has been retired from Charleston County law enforcement for two decades, but he still clearly recalls the troubled young man who sat across from him on a warm spring day in 1977.
Frazier, a county police corporal at the time, had hauled in Lucius Crawford for questioning after linking the 24-year-old ex-con to a stabbing spree in which five women were wounded.
Frazier, lead detective on the case, sat face-to-face with Crawford as the young man expressed remorse for what he had done and confessed to targeting women in and around Charleston who were complete strangers to him.
“I got the idea that if he didn’t get some psychiatric help, he was going to continue along this path,” Frazier said this week. “I remember telling one of the city detectives, ‘This guy is going to become a serial killer the way he’s acting.’?”
The attacks netted Crawford a 24-year prison sentence, and it’s unclear from court records whether he received mental health treatment while behind bars.
Records show that a judge committed Crawford to a state mental institution for 15 days after his April 1977 arrest for the purpose of determining his fitness for trial and his sanity at the time of the stabbings. Court files do not include the findings from that stay, but Crawford’s guilty plea in June of that year and the resulting prison sentence would indicate that doctors cleared him for trial.
Crawford moved to New York after his release in 1991 and stabbed another woman there 13 times three years later, police said.
Crawford landed back in the news this week when police in New York charged him with two cold-case homicides and the slaying of a 41-year-old woman they found stabbed to death inside his Mount Vernon, N.Y., apartment on Tuesday.
Investigators caught up with Crawford about three hours later and he confessed to all three killings, police said. The older homicides also involved women who were stabbed to death, police said.
Crawford, 60, remains locked up without bail following a preliminary court hearing Thursday. His next court appearance is scheduled for Monday.
His court-appointed attorney, Angelo MacDonald of New York, said Friday he has spoken only briefly with Crawford, and has seen no paperwork beyond charging documents in the Mount Vernon killing.
“I plan to see him Monday morning and spend some more time with him,” he said. “Then we’ll figure out legally what road we are going to take.”
Newsday in New York reported that authorities are conducting a nationwide search of cold cases to determine whether Crawford has killed other women.
Mike Gordon, a cold-case investigator for Charleston police, has been reviewing his department’s unsolved killings but so far has not found any matches to Crawford. Though some cases bear similarities to Crawford’s crimes, he appeared to have been in custody or out of state at the time. Gordon added that his review has not been completed.
Charleston County sheriff’s Maj. Jim Brady said he is also in the process of reviewing old cases, but has so far not come up with any possible links to Crawford.
Crawford grew up in Charleston, living with his family in a squat home on Echo Avenue in Union Heights. He first ran into legal trouble in 1973, when he was accused of stabbing five women. He pleaded guilty to two of those attacks and served three years in prison.
His second stabbing spree occurred about four months after his release from prison in late 1976. In less than a week’s time, he randomly targeted five women he met on the street and stabbed them for no apparent reason, court records show.
Frazier, now in his 70s, was one of the investigators tasked with finding the shadowy suspect. An informant’s tip helped lead him to Crawford, and the victims later identified him from a police lineup, records show.
Frazier, who still works as an author and private investigator, said he doesn’t recall every detail of that investigation 35 years ago. But he clearly remembers the anger he sensed bubbling in this “strange fellow,” despite Crawford’s statements of remorse.
In his written statement to police, Crawford said he was glad they caught him and stopped him from hurting more women.
“He said he was sorry, but he was a vicious guy. He would just walk up on these women out of the blue,” Frazier recalled. “From talking with him, I got the impression he had a real deep-rooted hatred toward women.”
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.