PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The capture of an escaped inmate, accused of beating and strangling a woman to death while on the run, has the Armstrong County community breathing a sigh of relief.

According to police, Robert Crissman, 38, was apprehended around 8:40 a.m. Friday in Boggs Township after a 26-hour manhunt. While he was on the run, police say he’s accused of stealing two vehicles, a gun and murdering a friend’s live-in girlfriend.

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Calls came into 911 around 7:30 a.m. to report a vehicle, matching the description of one allegedly stolen by the suspect on Thursday, spotted in Boggs Township.

Several people in the Templeton area spotted the first stolen truck.

“A short time later, a call came in from a private resident in that area indicating that Mr. Crissman was at her door, knocking on her door,” said Scott Andreassi, the Armstrong County District Attorney.

A mother, home alone with her children, called 911.

“I felt like I was in her bedroom with her and her kids, that’s how I felt,” said Melda Martin, the 911 operator who took the call. “I was trying to keep her safe. I kept asking her, ‘Do you hear anymore sounds?’ Because I was afraid maybe he would break a window and try and get in. She was very calm. One of her children were crying and then she calmed them down.”

While on the phone, the homeowner heard a vehicle start in the driveway. When they looked outside, a white pickup truck was missing.

“My neighbor’s truck is the same truck, but it’s a different color of red,” said witness Robert Aul, who was one of several people who called 911. “So that’s what caught my eye. And like I said, I wave at everybody who goes by and most of the neighbors wave back. And this person fit the description to a T.”

Police were immediately dispatched to the area. When they encountered the white truck, he led police on a chase of about seven miles, which ended on Williamson Road. Prior to the end of the chase, Crissman attempted to ram a state police cruiser.

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He is now facing charges of homicide, escape, aggravated assault of a police officer and theft.


(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Police say Crissman, who was locked up on drug and theft charges, escaped from the Armstrong County Jail in Rayburn Township around 6:30 a.m. Thursday. By Thursday afternoon, police said they were also considering him a murder suspect.

The search for Crissman was centered in the area of the jail, where not long after his escape, police say he showed up at the home of a couple he knew. That’s where police found 55-year-old Tammy Long murdered. Police said Crissman also stole the couple’s 1999 maroon-colored Chevrolet Silverado.

Today, Long’s cause of death was ruled to be a result of blunt force trauma and strangulation.

After his capture, authorities released the gruesome details of Thursday’s homicide in a criminal complaint. The victim’s live-in boyfriend knows Crissman.

The criminal complaint reads: “He stated Crissman advised his vehicle had broken down and he needed a ride to Kittanning. [Terry] Slagle had to leave for work. Long advised she could take him to Kittanning. The victim was [later] found in the bathroom on the floor. The toilet lid was broken into pieces with blood stains.”

Officials say Crissman, described as a trustee at the jail, managed to escape through an open door.

The Armstrong County District Attorney’s Office also said Crissman appeared to be under the influence of something when he was taken into custody.

He was arraigned Friday and is now being held without bond pending a preliminary hearing.

Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statement Friday morning about the search prior to Crissman being captured:

“Pennsylvania State Police are working with the Armstrong County District Attorney’s Office, U.S. Marshals and local law enforcement to find and capture Robert Crissman, who should be considered very dangerous. I ask Pennsylvanians to be vigilant and call 911 if you see anything or believe you have information that may help authorities locate and apprehend this fugitive.”

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Heather Abraham