The family of a York County woman who police say was killed by her ex-boyfriend two years ago is suing a number of high-ranking officials. The victim’s family wants several people to held accountable for her death.
The case centers around the death of CherylAnn Dowell. Police say in June 2012 Ross Crawford killed Dowell and then barricaded himself inside the home. “He hit her in the head, wrapped her up in a blanket, and then barricaded himself,” said Civil Rights Attorney Devon Jacob. Jacob says Dowell’s death could have been prevented. He filed a civil rights lawsuit against the York County Prison Warden, The Head of Adult Probation, all three York County Commissioners, among others.
According to the lawsuit, before Dowell’s death, Crawford on numerous occasions broke no contact orders and assaulted her. That’s what landed him in prison, followed by orders for him to go on house arrest. But, according to the documents, Crawford was never put on house arrest because of a backlog in the system.
“They did not have the proper equipment or manpower to keep him safely under lock and key where he belonged,” said Jacob. “They also didn’t notify Ms. Dowell that he had been released. She could have taken proper precautions to protect herself. He was essentially a free man in the community, despite a court order requiring him to be incarcerated in his home. He simply did what everybody knew he would do eventually, and he went to Ms. Dowell’s home and he murdered her.”
He said county employees were aware of the backlog, and because of that, Crawford should have been kept in prison until resources were available to place him on house arrest. “He did not have a set release date. But now, because of their failure, she is no longer with us,” said Jacob.
Jacob says the Commissioners chose not to adequately fund the Probation and Parole Department which contributed to Dowell’s death. “As for the Commissioner, look, the buck stops there. They are the policymakers of the county. They are the ones who set up the rules and regulations. They are the ones who decide what to fund and not fund,” said Jacob.
“A lot of the people involved are also members of the Prison Board of Inspectors, and it was for them to tell the judges, ‘Hey, we’re not doing our jobs, we’re not able to supervise this program. We cannot have the house arrest program in York County, because we don’t have the funding, we don’t have the equipment,’ Instead they decided to pretend like they could run a program of this nature and as a result this is what we have,” said Jacob.
Because of the ongoing lawsuit York County Commissioner Chris Reilly could only say this: “It’s obviously a very tragic situation and it’s very distressing. The County is going to deny liability at this point, but the solicitor is still reviewing all of the documentation,” said Commissioner Reilly.