KITTANNING, Pa. (KDKA/AP) – Opening statements and testimony began Tuesday in the trial of a man charged with strangling a woman he knew after escaping from the Armstrong County Jail.
Robert Crissman Jr., 38, is charged with criminal homicide, escape and other charges for running away from the jail on July 30, while working as a trustee who retrieved inmate food trays from a truck parked outside the lockup.
He slipped away un-noticed while a jail guard, who was supposed to be keeping an eye on security cameras, was apparently dozing.
Prosecutors say the suspect killed 55-year-old Tammy Long in her home.
During opening statements, the assistant district attorney outlined their case against Crissman from the time he escaped to when he was arrested. The prosecution also showed the jury a video of Crissman the day of his escape.
Crissman went to Long’s home shortly after escaping. When he arrived, he claimed his car had broken down and Long offered to give him a ride.
Long and her boyfriend were unaware that Crissman had escaped from the jail.
After Long’s boyfriend went to work, the assistant district attorney said she suffered a head injury and died after being strangled with a shoestring from Crissman’s shoes.
Long’s boyfriend, Terry Slagle took the witness stand Tuesday and he told the jury, “I went into the house and found her dead in the bathroom. I ran outside screaming, ‘He killed her! He killed her!”
Crissman allegedly stole Long’s truck and then a second truck before being arrested after a pursuit the next day.
The prosecution also said they have a T-shirt with DNA belonging to Crissman and Long.
Police say he discarded his shirt from the jail in the woods, rolled up his pants and was wearing black Nike tennis shoes he allegedly stole from another inmate.
Meanwhile, the defense asked the jury to pay close attention to what is being said and what is not being said. The defense also told the jury to not let emotions get in the way of their job to evaluate the facts.
Crissman’s arrest prompted the warden to resign and various security reforms at the Armstrong County Jail.
Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi said investigators did not believe Long and her boyfriend knew that Crissman was an escapee when he showed up at their door.
A jury of six men and six women was selected Monday.
When court resumes Wednesday, forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht will take the stand, testifying about Long’s autopsy. Also, a DNA expert is set to testify.
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