CLEVELAND – A man who killed himself a day after police say he killed his wife and four others told a judge in 2005 that he was ready to be a law-abiding citizen who would not let society down if he was released from prison.
"I swear to you from the bottom of my heart that I 'WILL NOT' let you down. Let my wife or children down. Let my family down. Let society down. Or especially, let myself down," Davon Crawford wrote to Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo as part of a motion for release.
Crawford, who was freed in 2007, shot himself in the head Friday afternoon when confronted by police in the bathroom of a home not far from the house where he is suspected of fatally shooting his wife, his sister-in-law and three young children, said Cleveland Police Lt. Thomas Stacho.
Crawford, 33, was divorced from his first wife about three months after writing the letter to Russo, records show. He married again recently, according to the father of his new wife, 30-year-old Lechea Crawford. She was one of the women killed in the couple's home Thursday night, and police say a 2-month-old baby found unharmed in the home is believed to be theirs.
The two-story red-and-yellow wood frame home where Crawford died is located in a densely populated Cleveland neighborhood, and several dozen people lined up behind yellow police tape across the street as police converged on the house. They cheered as a sheet-covered stretcher was removed from the house, and cheered again when a van left the neighborhood with the body Friday evening.
Dozens also gathered Friday evening about four blocks away, on the street where Thursday's slayings took place. They held a candlelight vigil and rally at the site, where a memorial of more than a dozen stuffed animals had grown on the front steps.
Crawford has convicted in 1995 of voluntary manslaughter, according to prison records. He was released in 2000 and sent back to prison in 2002 on a felonious assault conviction involving domestic violence, prison records show.
In the 2005 letter, Crawford apologizes for firing a gun in his home and says, "I made an insensible choice in a moment of anger that could have actually cost me my wife and children. ... I now realize that when I make bad impulsive decisions, that I do not only hurt myself, but that I hurt everyone that love and cares for me as well, and especially my children."
He wrote that his then-wife had lung cancer and that he had a job and supporting family waiting for him. His wife, mother and others wrote Russo on his behalf, noting that he had three children at the time and had taken parenting and anger management courses and was studying dental lab technology.
While on parole, which ended last year, Crawford passed several urine tests for drugs, paid his child support, had a full-time job and no run-ins with authorities, according to Andrea Carson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Police searching for Crawford on Friday received a tip about his whereabouts and set up surveillance at the home where he was later seen by authorities, Stacho said. Police forced their way through the front door and found Crawford was hiding in the bathtub, officials said.
He fired one shot from a handgun, killing himself, said Jeff Carter, a U.S. Marshals Service spokesman.
"There was no standoff," Stacho said. "As they confronted him, he shot himself."
Stacho said officials believe a relative of Crawford lives at the home. He said an unidentified woman was found in another part of the home, but police did not release any information about her connection to Crawford.
Police Chief Michael McGrath said it appears that some sort of domestic argument sparked Thursday's shootings.
Besides Lechea Crawford, killed were her sister Rose Stevens, 25, and Stevens' three children: 4-year-old Destanee Woods and 2-year-old twins Dion and Davion Primm.
A fifth child was wounded and was being treated at MetroHealth Medical Center, which withheld the 7-year-old's name and condition at the family's request.
Two other boys in the house, ages 12 and 13, managed to flee unharmed and one called 911, officials said.
George Julien, 44, who lives across the street from the home, said he was stunned and upset at the shootings.
"I'm almost paralyzed. I'm almost not able to move right now," he said, sitting on his porch.
Associated Press writers M.R. Kropko in Cleveland and Andrew Welsh-Huggins and Meghan Barr in Columbus contributed to this report.