Jeannette woman convicted of third-degree murder in boyfriend’s death
A 39-year-old Jeannette woman was convicted Thursday of third-degree murder for the violent beating death more than three years ago of her 19-year-old boyfriend.
Jurors in Westmoreland County deliberated more than three hours before finding that Crystal Belle was guilty of a lesser charge.
Prosecutors asked for a first-degree murder conviction. They claimed Belle intentionally killed Khalil Parker in the South Seventh Street home they shared.
The conviction means Belle will face up to 40 years in prison when she is sentenced in about three months. The jury verdict mirrored a plea deal Belle approved then rescinded earlier this year.
“It was long overdue,” Parker’s father, Dewayne Morris, said of the verdict. “He was my son, and he was a good, well-mannered man. He was the best. He was nothing like what she said.”
Parker’s sister, Taylor Parker, 25, said details about her brother’s death were difficult to hear during the six-day trial.
“I’m happy it’s over with,” Parker said. “I told my brother he’ll get justice, and he got it.”
Belle testified for nearly three hours Thursday. She maintained she and Khalil Parker routinely engaged in rough, but consensual, sex but that she did not cause his fatal injuries. Parker, she said, left her home in the early morning hours of June 11, 2016, and returned hours later with a large head wound that caused him to eventually lose consciousness before she called for an ambulance.
“I did not kill him,” Belle testified. “I would not take anybody’s life like that. I would never take nobody’s only life.”
She claimed she and Parker participated in sexual domination and bondage. She said they used shoelaces to tie each other to a bed and inflict pain on their partner with the handle of a snow shovel or wooden board. Belle told jurors that the night before Parker’s death she became enraged when he inserted the shovel into her body against her will and later tried to force her to have oral sex.
She said she responded violently, threw the shovel handle at him, jabbed at Parker with scissors and used pliers to attack his genitals as he ran naked out of the room. She testified the fight eventually ended and they went to sleep. She claimed that when she awoke the next morning, he wasn’t home and didn’t return for hours.
“He came in through the back door with no shirt on. It was on his head, which was bleeding again,” Belle said. She told the jurors she then tried to treat his injuries and make him lunch.
She said Parker briefly went upstairs but later slid down the steps, sat in a chair where he slumped over and eventually collapsed.
Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck challenged Belle’s story. During his closing argument to the jury, he said her description of Parker’s death was not to be believed.
Peck said Belle had been possessive of Parker since the start of their relationship several months earlier. He said evidence suggested that she inflicted a head injury to Parker a week before his death when he was treated under an assumed name at a Pittsburgh hospital.
The prosecution said Parker sustained more than 100 injuries all over his body, including a head wound and smaller cuts and bruises that appeared on his neck, chest, arms, legs and genitals.
Parker’s autopsy revealed he died from not one specific wound but a loss of blood from a cumulative effect of all of his injuries.
“He was tortured,” Peck said. “This many injuries can’t be accidental.”
The prosecution suggested Belle used the snow shovel and a wooden plank to bludgeon Parker in the head as he was tied to the bed. Peck told jurors Belle attempted to clean and sanitize her home before she dragged Parker down the stairs and called for an ambulance.
Peck argued the lack of blood at the murder scene was because of Belle’s effort to wipe clean areas of her home and hide evidence of the fatal beating.
Belle claimed she fled the area out of fear that police would not believe her story. She told jurors she first went to Ohio for several days then took a bus to South Carolina, where she spent a week before she returned and eventually surrendered to police.
The defense maintained there was no evidence of how Parker died. A defense-hired expert testified there was not enough blood at the scene to support the prosecution’s theory of the case.
Defense attorney Brian Aston asked that Belle be found not guilty.
“There is not enough evidence to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt,” Aston said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .