WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A defense lawyer suggested Monday that a man accused of fatally stabbing three women over 20 years may be mentally disabled, but relatives of the victims suggested the suspect was just trying to avoid life in prison.
Lucius Crawford, of Mount Vernon, pleaded not guilty in Westchester County Court as he was arraigned on murder charges in two of the killings. A third case is being prosecuted in the Bronx.
Crawford, 60, has already spent about half his life in prison for nonfatal stabbings of women in New York and North Carolina going back to the 1970s.
His lawyer, Angelo MacDonald, entered not-guilty pleas and then asked Judge Barbara Zambelli to order a mental health evaluation. He said the request was based on meetings with Crawford and on a doctor's report from the 1990s that said "my client's IQ is 64 and he was labeled mildly retarded."
In court on Monday, Crawford wore a dress shirt and tie, and had closely cropped gray hair. He did not speak.
Crawford is accused of killing Tonya Simmons, 41, on Dec. 4. Her body was found in Crawford's Mount Vernon apartment by officers from Yonkers and New York City who were looking for Crawford in connection with two cold-case killings. A recent DNA match had linked Crawford to those killings, police said.
One of the cold-case killings was the stabbing of Learonda Shealy, 23, of Yonkers, in 1993. The case in Westchester also charges Crawford with that killing.
Crawford was indicted last month in the 1993 killing of Nella West, 38, whose body was found in the Bronx.
After the judge granted the request for a mental exam, relatives of Simmons and Shealy took issue with it.
Arlene Perkins, of Yonkers, Shealy's mother, said that if Crawford tries to avoid prison or even just succeeds in delaying a trial, "It's going to make the whole process worse for us."
"Don't play on our sympathy saying you're crazy," said Elizabeth Thompson of the Bronx, a cousin of Simmons. "He's not crazy at all."
Simmons' aunt, Waheebah Wajid of Beacon, said, "I don't want to hear this nonsense about him being insane."