Death of Jennifer Ann Crecente

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Jennifer Ann Crecente
JenniferAnnCrecente.png
Born September 9, 1987
Austin, Texas
Died February 15, 2006 (age 18)
Austin, Texas
Cause of death
Murder by shooting
Education Bowie High School
Parents Drew and Elizabeth Crecente
Website
Jennifer Ann's Group

Jennifer Ann Crecente (September 9, 1987 – February 15, 2006), a victim of teen dating violence, was an 18-year-old high school honor student who was shot and killed in southwest Austin, Texas by an ex-boyfriend, Justin Crabbe on February 15, 2006. She was a camp counselor at SciTrek in Atlanta and hospital volunteer in Austin.[1] Jennifer was killed a few months prior to graduation.[2] Crecente and Crabbe were classmates at Bowie High School in Austin until Crabbe dropped out of school in the tenth grade.[3] Crecente's murder was the first in Austin in 2006.[4] In response to her murder a charitable organization has been formed, a memorial grant created in her name and legislation passed in Texas.

Events[edit]

Crecente's body was found at night on February 16, 2006 in a wooded area.[5] Crabbe was arrested on February 18, 2006 on a charge of first-degree murder.[6] Crabbe told police that he and a man named Richard were playing with a gun. Jennifer was about 20 to 30 feet away. The gun fired, and Jennifer dropped. Crabbe did not check on Crecente to see how badly she was injured before fleeing the scene.[7] Videotape shows Crabbe with another man purchasing ammunition at a sporting goods store.[8] Crabbe was on parole from a prior felony conviction[9] and could not legally purchase ammunition.

Arrest & trial[edit]

Crabbe pleaded "not guilty" on September 22, 2006.[10] He was in jail and not eligible for bail. He faced a maximum sentence of life in prison.[11] On March 6, 2007, Crabbe's court-appointed lawyers requested to have his videotaped confession thrown out.[12] On March 22, 2007, Judge Charles "Charlie" Baird denied the defense's request to throw out the videotaped confession. Judge Baird set the trial date for July 23, 2007. On July 19, 2007, it was announced that there would be no trial for Crabbe but instead a court appearance has been scheduled for July 27, 2007.[13] The court appearance was cancelled without explanation. On July 31, 2007, it was announced that Crabbe had agreed to a guilty plea and that a hearing was scheduled for August 1, 2007. The terms were not released.[14] On August 1, 2007, Crabbe pled guilty to murder as part of a plea agreement. In exchange for his guilty plea he received 35 years in prison. Additionally, he testified before a grand jury. Crabbe's testimony resulted in a sealed indictment for Ricardo Roman. Roman was indicted on July 17, 2007 and arrested on July 31, 2007 in South Texas.[15] On February 15, 2008, the Travis County District Attorney's office dismissed the indictment against Roman.[16]

Charitable organizations[edit]

Both parents have founded organizations in Jennifer's honor. Organizational goals for the two organizations sometimes converge but work as individual entities:

Jennifer Ann's Group, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was created by Jennifer's father in Crecente's memory to prevent teen dating violence in February 2006. The stated purpose of the organization is to "keep Jennifer Crecente's memory alive through education and good works." The organization distributes educational materials to schools and organizations across the US for free and speaks nationally and regionally about teen dating violence.[17] It is also the creator of the Life.Love. Game Design Challenge, an annual video game design contest that aims to educate teens and preteens about teen dating violence through online video games.[18][19]

Jennifer's Hope was founded in August 2006 by Jennifer's mother, Elizabeth Crecente. She speaks to teen and professionals, and has had several national appearances, multiple statewide appearances, and is involved in the Austin/Travis county community drives to prevent teen dating violence and promote healthy relationships.[20]

Memorial grant[edit]

The Texas Psychological Foundation[21] created The Jennifer Ann Crecente Memorial Grant[22] in Crecente's memory. The annual grant pays $5,000 to a graduate student studying violence against women. Crecente's grandmother, Dr. Elizabeth Richeson,[23] is a psychologist and Crecente was considering pursuing a career in psychology.

Legislation[edit]

On February 5, 2007, the Texas Legislature's State Representative Dawnna Dukes entered a bill to require school districts in Texas to create policies regarding Teen Dating Violence. This bill was created in memory of Jennifer Ann Crecente[24] and Ortralla Mosley.[25] Jennifer Ann's Group provided testimony on February 8, 2007 to the legislature in support of this bill. Governor Rick Perry signed the bill into law on May 18, 2007, and it immediately went into effect.[26] Every school district in the state of Texas has to have a formal policy regarding Teen Dating Violence as a result of this legislation.[27]

On February 15, 2007, on the one-year anniversary of Jennifer's murder, Senator Eliot Shapleigh entered a bill to grant posthumous diplomas to students that died during their Senior year of high school. The bill is named "Jennifer's Law".[28] On May 28, 2007 the bill was signed in the Senate and passed to Governor Rick Perry for signing. The bill was signed by the Governor on June 15, 2007 and went into effect immediately.[29] "Jennifer's Law" allows the family of any Texas student that died during their Senior year of high school to request a posthumous diploma.[30]

Dedications[edit]

The Colquitt County Arts Center Theatre dedicated the 2007 production of Oliver! to Jennifer Ann Crecente. In 1998 the Arts Center performed Oliver!, and Jennifer and her father both appeared in the production. The 2007 production is dedicated to Crecente because of her previous performance as well as because of the theme of the show, which includes dating violence.[31]

Footnotes[edit]