‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ defense cited in Jeannette woman’s murder trial
The lawyer for a Jeannette woman on trial for the murder of her teenage boyfriend told jurors Thursday the fatal beating was a result of sexual escapades between the couple.
Defense lawyer Brian Aston in his opening statement said Crystal Belle and her live-in boyfriend Khalil Parker, 19, formerly of Brentwood, Allegheny County, engaged in an alternate lifestyle of rough sexual games and domination that he compared to the book and movie “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“It may not be a lifestyle you appreciate, but I can tell you what it’s not: murder,” Aston said.
Westmoreland County prosecutors contend Belle, 39, should be found guilty of first-degree murder. She is accused of using a snow shovel and other objects to beat Parker to death on June 11, 2016, in the South Seventh Street home they shared.
District Attorney John Peck told jurors that Parker’s death was a case of domestic violence that resulted from a strained relationship.
“This is like so many cases of domestic violence. They love each other and suddenly the relationship turns 180 degrees and turns into hatred and malice with each other,” Peck said. “She was suspicious that a younger woman would take him away, and she made certain Khalil Parker would never leave.”
Peck said a week before his death, Belle took Parker to a Pittsburgh hospital to be treated for a head injury. Parker, though, gave a fake name to medical personnel and claimed he was attacked on the street, Peck told jurors.
A week later, rescue crews were called to Belle’s home after she claimed that Parker collapsed on the floor after returning home a few minutes earlier.
Jeannette police officer Frank Balistreri testified Belle claimed Parker was the victim of another attack.
“She couldn’t tell me who beat him up,” Balistreri said.
Joseph Sapp, a Jeannette EMS volunteer who attempted to revive Parker, said he found the victim on the floor wearing only shorts that were pulled down around his ankles as Belle sat atop him attempting chest compressions.
“He was missing small pieces of skin all over his entire body, including his genitalia,” Sapp testified.
Parker was eventually taken to Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg, where an hour later he was pronounced dead.
Prosecutors said a search of Belle’s home found blood on the walls, floor and on a bed where long chains of shoelaces were tied to pieces of furniture. Investigators found pieces of a snow shovel in several rooms and pliers on the kitchen counter. Blood-soaked shirts were found in a sealed trash bag, Peck said.
He told jurors that a handwritten note was posted on a bedroom door that read, “Please don’t leave me baby, I love you.”
The prosecution claims Belle fled following Parker’s death.
Lance Clemons, of Edgewood, testified he gave Belle, his former girlfriend, money and permission to stay at a home he owned in Youngstown, Ohio.
“She said she got into it with Khalil. I asked her why she was always in abusive relationships. She said she was scared that he was not going to make it. She said they got into a fight and he was too strong for her, threw her around so she hit him with a piece of a shovel,” Clemons testified.
Belle eventually returned a week later to Pennsylvania and surrendered to police.
Jurors are expected to view crime scene photographs and hear details about the items collected at Belle’s home when the trial continues Friday before Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Feliciani.
Belle last year pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of third-degree murder. She faced up to 40 years in prison but rescinded her guilty plea in February, insisting that she wanted to defend herself against the murder charges.
In addition to first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, Belle also is charged with third-degree murder, unlawful restraint and tampering with evidence.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, rcho[email protected] or via Twitter .