column: Part two: Following attacks, police pursue suspect believed responsible for violent crimes
I arrived at the University of Michigan Police Department, or UMPD, with other members of the Ann Arbor Police Department Special Investigations Unit , or SIU, and was surprised to see my pal “Cannon” and several other Washtenaw County Sheriff’s (WCSO) Investigators at the meeting. I knew Cannon had busy investigating his arson/homicide case, but I had not heard the specifics. We SIU officers were about to hear a long story that was stranger than fiction.
Working independently the WCSO investigators were working on Cannon’s arson-homicide from the east side of the county involving a computer expert victim with some University ties. Meanwhile UMPD detectives worked on an attack and subsequent firebombing of a U-M student’s dorm room on North Campus.
Cannon and crew from the WCSO found a motive for their murder involving a woman who had been romantically involved with the victim. This woman stole the victim’s money, ran up his credit cards and left the state. The computer expert and homicide victim had been a mild-mannered, middle-age computer geek who had never been in trouble and had no dangerous habits. The woman he had fallen for and used him for so much was named Crystal.
Coincidentally, the university detectives found the suspect behind the attack and firebombing they were investigating was an ex-lover of their student victim. Their victim was a young and attractive vocal music major with a great voice and incredibly long, thick black hair. This University student had been attacked by two teenage girls, who had been sent by the student’s ex-lover to smash the coed victim’s computer and cut off her hair.
The teenagers managed to ruin the computer, but cut only one long braid of the coed’s hair. The ex-lover was not satisfied and a day or so later, the coed’s now vacant ground floor dorm room in Baits Hall was firebombed. The suspect in the U-M cases also was Crystal.
Both agencies briefed us on the results of their respective, and by then linked, investigations. It seems that the County’s homicide victim had been smitten by Crystal, who stayed with him long enough to steal as much as she could and fled the state with her new young lover, who happened to be the U-M music major who had been victimized in the UMPD’s cases.
Crystal and the U-M student travelled west and wound up in Arizona where the pair settled in an apartment. Crystal convinced her young lover to break into show business at an adult entertainment club. The young coed’s picture showcasing her good looks and long tresses advertised the club in local newspapers.
At some point while in Arizona, the couple agreed to go on The Sally Jessy Raphael Show, which was a popular talk show at the time. The episode’s theme was "I've Got a Secret."
The U-M music major went first. Her secret was that she had written a song, dedicated to the love of her life Crystal, which she sang to the audience. The young girl cast loving glances at Crystal throughout the performance.
Crystal meantime wore a big smile seated on Sally Jessy Rafael’s couch, while the producers created a split screen shot of Crystal’s secret which was a man in the “green room” backstage. At the conclusion of the song the lovesick singer/songwriter came back to Sally’s guest area to embrace Crystal. It was then Crystal bragged that she actually had the bigger secret.
Crystal asked the singer if she remembered the guy who lived down the hall—“Yes.” Crystal continued that she had made love to him several times and wanted to start a relationship with him. The young singer’s heart was broken in front of a national television audience. Humiliated, she walked off the stage.
Crystal’s male tryst had meanwhile come out from backstage. After the singer had left the set, Crystal batted her eyes ever so sweetly, the picture of innocence and bashfully—on television — asked her neighbor if he would like to “start a real relationship.” The neighbor replied unequivocally, “No.”
The devastated young U-M student went back to Michigan and with the help of her family put her life back together. Crystal scraped, stole and scammed enough money to follow her a few months later.
Back home Crystal formed a little gang and took a job at a pharmacy on the west side of Ann Arbor. One day she asked the pharmacist how she might purchase some chloroform. When the pharmacist asked why, Crystal brushed it off as if she had been joking.
Crystal schemed and decided to get even with the computer guy — who had cops looking for her by then — and hopefully find his stash of cash. Crystal and several friends arrived on his doorstep, tied him up, beat him with a flashlight and ordered him to tell them where the cash—cash he never had—was hidden. He died during Crystal’s torturous interrogation.
Several days later, Crystal loaned her car to her lone adult male posse member named “Dale.” Crystal ordered Dale to burn the homicide victim’s house down to cover up the crime. It also had been Dale and Crystal who firebombed the music major’s thankfully empty dorm room.
Dale drove Crystal’s Daihatsu (a car) over to the murdered computer guy’s house. Dale torched the house with the victim’s body inside. Witnesses saw a Daihatsu near the house just prior to the fire.
That is the “Reader’s Digest” version of a tale with more twists and turns than a can of worms. It would be SIU’s task to assist investigators from the WCSO and UMPD in surveilling the hangouts where Crystal would hunt—to kill or abduct — her ex-lover, the young coed.
The bar that most likely Crystal would search was the Nectarine Ballroom. SIU parked “the box”—surveillance van—staffed by then officer and current Deputy Chief “Baz” in front of Crystal’s most likely hunting ground. Crystal’s intended victim was inside the box, with Baz, to spot Crystal if she appeared.
Crystal never made it to the Nectarine Ballroom, but that was where she had been headed.
Cannon and I were riding together and patrolling between surveillance locations trying to spot Crystal’s car. We were enjoying the scenery of a college town on bar night.
I was driving northbound on State Street and I stopped at the light at Liberty and suddenly noticed we were stopped behind a Daihatsu—a make of car I had never seen or heard of before this case. We both looked down and saw it had an Arizona plate and was occupied by three people. In unison we looked at each other and said, “It’s her!”
We radioed to other units that we had spotted the car. “Slider” and “County Roy” spotted it about the same time from their surveillance point on Liberty at State. We called uniformed cars to respond as we followed Crystal and crew.
Crystal parked just east of the Michigan Theatre and got out. My old partner “The Dancing Bear” was the first uniformed police officer to arrive. The Bear and about half a dozen of us plainclothes officers, with badges swinging from neck chains overwhelmed the trio which included: Crystal, Dale and a juvenile female. The trio had no time to fight or flee.
Inside the car we found several firearms including an Uzi-like machine gun and home made weapons including hand grenades. In Crystal’s pocket was a beaded, zippered, change purse containing the long braid of hair the teenagers had cut from the U-M singer’s head.
Once arrested, like many sociopaths or psychopaths—cops use both terms to describe individuals with no conscience—investigators could not shut Crystal up. She told lie after lie and changed her story whenever new evidence was introduced.
In the end, before her trial, Crystal hung herself in jail. Dale was the only person convicted and sent to prison for Crystal’s diabolical crime spree.
Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.
Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for AnnArbor.com.