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Fayette DA to seek death penalty in stabbing

Security officer Nick Erminio leads Henry Clay Crawford to his arraignment Thursday on charges of.homicide and burglary in the Jan. 28 stabbing death of Lisa Faye Tupta, 48, in her North Union home. District Attorney Jack Heneks Jr. filed notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Crawford.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013, 10:00 a.m.
 

A Fayette County man accused of fatally stabbing a North Union woman showed no emotion on Thursday when he learned he will face the possibility of the death penalty.

Henry Clay Crawford, 56, who was secured with handcuffs and leg shackles, stood silently next to his attorney in arraignment court as District Attorney Jack Heneks Jr. announced his intention to seek the death penalty.

In a prepared statement, Heneks said he hopes his action would send a message to other abusers that they could face the “ultimate penalty.”

State police have accused Crawford of 227 Christmas St., North Union, of fatally stabbing Lisa Faye Tupta, 49, in her North Union residence on Jan. 28.

Police said Crawford kicked in the door to Tupta's residence on Easter Street in the Holiday Mobile Home Park and stabbed her in the abdomen, neck and right hand. Tupta bled to death, according to an autopsy report. Troopers found Crawford hiding in a bedroom closet.

He was taken to Uniontown Hospital for treatment of puncture wounds on his stomach and neck, according to Trooper Thomas Broadwater, who testified during Crawford's Feb. 13 preliminary hearing.

Crawford learned that prosecutors will seek the death penalty as he was arraigned before Judge John F. Wagner Jr. on charges of homicide and burglary. Contacted by phone after the announcement, Tupta's stepfather, Wayne Crable, declined comment because he was unaware of the decision to seek the death penalty.

In the notice of his intent to seek the death penalty, Heneks listed aggravating circumstances of a killing perpetrated during the commission of a felony, torture and Crawford's prior history of violent felony convictions. In addition, Heneks cited an active protection from abuse court order that forbade Crawford from having any contact with Tupta.

“I do not make this decision lightly, as I am acutely aware of the ultimate consequence my decision can bring,” Heneks said in a prepared statement.

In the release, Heneks said seeking the death penalty against Crawford sends a message to others who commit domestic violence.

“It should be clear to any perpetrator or potential perpetrator of domestic violence that his or her actions are, or could become, harmful to the victims of those assaults and could result in the ultimate penalty for their actions.”

Crawford has a lengthy history of violence toward women, according to court records, including the protection order that Tupta sought after two violent encounters with Crawford. Criminal charges were filed in both instances, but they were dismissed when Tupta refused to testify.

Heneks said in the release he has ordered personnel who work with victims of domestic violence to set up protocols and standards aimed at protecting victims and encouraging them to follow through with prosecutions.

“It saddens me when our office is requested by victims to drop charges against perpetrators of these crimes,” Heneks said. “While I understand the reasons articulated by those victims for doing so, the consequences of halting prosecutions are haunting, as the instant prosecution demonstrates.”

Crawford is being held in the Fayette County Prison without bond.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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