Almost three years later, daughter wants mother's murder solved

April 17, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

When Shannon was 11 years old, her mother became pregnant with a boy. Three years after giving birth to Zach, the family moved from Hagerstown to Hedgesville.

After moving, the abuse stopped for a while, but Michael Crissy still was drinking. He talked about moving to a secluded area near Berkeley Springs, W.Va., so no neighbors could call police, Shannon remembers.

When her parents argued, she would make sure her younger brother was with her, watching television or otherwise busy, so he wouldn't have to listen.


Michael Crissy was charged with domestic battery after an incident on Dec. 29, 2001, in which he grabbed his wife by the throat and threw her against a bed, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

Cathy Crissy told police her husband picked up a knife and came after her, court records state. She ran into her son's bedroom and locked the door, but Michael Crissy kicked in the door and started tearing up the house.

On Feb. 2, 2002, the domestic battery charge was "stet docketed," meaning the charge would be dismissed as long as no additional domestic assault or domestic battery charges were filed against him for a year.

Despite the abuse, Cathy Crissy did not leave because she did not think she could raise her two children on her own.

"She'd always try to find the good in him," Shannon said.

Although Shannon believes her father, a truck driver, played some role in her mother's death, she does not believe he stabbed her. That night, he was in his bedroom, apparently sleeping, with the door closed. He had a cell phone with him.

Shannon said that the layout of the house meant he couldn't have left without her knowing.

When the State Police trooper who called that night told her to wake her father, Shannon obeyed.

"He woke up too suddenly. He wasn't an easy person to wake up," Shannon said.

He then started crying.

Shannon, who did not yet know the details, prayed her mother had died in a car accident. She called a friend, who in turn called Shannon's grandmother.

Shannon said her father is the only person who knew Cathy Crissy's schedule that night. He later let Shannon listen to a message her mother had left that night on his phone. During the message Cathy Crissy outlined her planned activities.

'A person of interest'

Shannon Crissy wants to know exactly what happened in the Hedgesville Post Office that June night. She doesn't want to see the crime scene photographs, but she would like to read the police reports to try to understand.

"She was taken and I want to know why," she said, adding that it's possible something in the reports will jog her memory. "I may be able to help."

West Virginia State Police Trooper Robert Elswick was the lead investigator on the case, but it was turned over to now-Sgt. Dean Olack.

Elswick was shot once in the head on Oct. 10, 2002. He survived, but has not been able to return to work.

"(Trooper) Elswick promised me and everybody else that he'd have my mother's case solved in six months to a year," Shannon said.

Police interviewed Michael Crissy at least twice in connection with his wife's death, police have said.

Shannon said her father was secretive by nature. He kept a post office box in Thurmont, Md., and used a fake middle initial on his bank account.

He also was a heavy drinker and once, when Cathy Crissy started driving faster, told her to slam the car into a tree.

"He always wanted someone to end his life for him," Shannon said.

Michael Crissy died on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2002, when the Ford Escort station wagon he was driving crossed the center line on Hammonds Mill Road and crashed head-on into an oncoming pickup truck.

Nobody in the truck was seriously injured.

Olack said a flurry of activity surrounding Cathy Crissy's murder happened in February and that police are looking at a "person of interest."

Investigators are waiting on laboratory test results on items seized by police in connection with the case, Olack said Friday.

Crissy had been stabbed around 20 times, with wounds to her upper body, back and neck, police said at the time. She also had defensive wounds, police said.

She was found on the floor of the post office's lobby by a post office patron, who called 911 at 9:12 p.m., police said at the time. Medics rushed her to City Hospital in Martinsburg, where she was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m., a nursing supervisor there said at the time.

A witness who had stopped by the post office within 15 minutes of Crissy's body being found saw a man in a red car, possibly a Dodge Neon, Olack said.

The man was in his car when the witness arrived at the post office, and still was there when the witness left, Olack has said.

Investigators discounted robbery as a possible motive, since Crissy's purse was found with her and nothing is believed to have been taken.

Remembering a mother

Cathy Crissy loved to sew and often would make clothes for her children, which, at the time, could be embarrassing, Shannon said.

She also worked on her house, which had a country decor.

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