Suspect, dad on poor terms

Police have released little about the woman charged in the slaying of an NCCU student

Staff WritersJanuary 20, 2007 

— More than two weeks after Denita Monique Smith was found shot to death outside her apartment, police won't say why they think Shannon Elizabeth Crawley pulled the trigger.

Police won't even reveal how Crawley, of Greensboro, knew the N.C. Central University graduate student, much less divulge a suspected motive for the shooting that stunned the campus.

As of Friday, authorities hadn't made public what they found in Crawley's home during a search Jan. 9, despite a legal mandate to do so "without unnecessary delay."

Prison officials confirmed this week that Crawley was moved from the Durham County jail to the N.C. Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh under "medical safekeeping."

Keith Acree, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Correction, said medical safekeeping means "there are medical or mental health issues the local jail is not equipped to handle."

"Inmates that are a suicide risk would fall into that category," Acree said, though he added he could not say whether Crawley had attempted to harm herself.

Other public records offer a sketch of Crawley, 27, a mother of two who worked as a 911 dispatcher. But they shed little light on what they think might have driven her to kill.

Crawley has had a rocky relationship with her father, Keith Aaron Crawley Sr., according to court records.

In September, Crawley asked a Guilford County judge to grant a temporary restraining order protecting her and her two children from her father. Her request was based on two incidents in which her father was violent, she said in the request, which eventually was denied.

The first incident was July 31, when Crawley called the 911 center where she worked, summoning ambulances to a house off a rural gravel road in northern Guilford County, according to court documents. At the time, she lived there with her father and her school-age children, according to neighbors and public records.

The swarm of ambulances worried neighbors. Resident Marjorie Reinbold said she remembers looking at the flashing lights and wondering whether Shannon, the neighbor she had come to know as friendly and open, was OK.

That day, Shannon Crawley's father had slapped her face and cut her lip in front of her children, Crawley wrote in the request for a restraining order.

In another incident in September, her father had broken down the door to her bedroom, she wrote. More than 6 feet tall and 250 pounds, her father was a former sheriff's deputy and knowledgeable in self-defense, she added. She asked that the court prohibit her father from owning a gun and order him to counseling.

It was unclear where Keith Crawley served as a sheriff's deputy. Guilford County officials said he was not employed by them.

Despite a long history of financial troubles, indicated by a trail of bad checks and evictions for failing to pay her rent detailed in court records, Crawley was able to buy a house in a new subdivision, just a couple of miles away from her father's home. The house and land, valued at $173,000, are in the same development where Denita Smith's fiance now lives.

Keith Crawley Sr., reached by phone last week, declined to talk about his daughter.

Crawley is the mother of a 10-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl fathered by the same man, who is from California.

The couple had been together since they were teenagers, having their son in 1996 in Rockland County, N.Y. They lived together for a while, according to child support papers, and had their second child in Pomona, Calif.

Efforts to reach the children's father were unsuccessful.

Staff writer Matt Dees can be reached at 956-2433 or

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