WILKES-BARRE — Kenneth Carl Crawford III has been in prison since 2001 for two 1999 murders. On Monday, he learned he’s not likely to get out anytime soon.
Crawford, 34, originally of Oklahoma, was granted a re-sentencing by Luzerne County Judge Fred A. Pierantoni III.
He’s been serving two life sentences for the murders of Diana Algar and Jose Molina at the Paradise Camp Resort in Hollenback Township. He and his co-defendant David Lee Hanley killed the pair in an “execution style” after the couple picked Crawford and Hanley while hitchhiking.
On Monday, Crawford learned he will continue to serve what could amount to a life sentence.
Pierantoni gave Crawford two sentences of 26 years to life in prison to be run consecutively, and he was also given credit for the nearly 18 years he has already spent in prison.
That means that Crawford won’t be eligible for parole until 2052. He will be 68 years old.
Crawford was 15 when the murders occurred, and was granted a new sentence on the back of new Supreme Court rulings that prohibit a mandatory life sentence for juveniles.
Under the new rulings, juvenile offenders are required to have a “meaningful opportunity” for release.
However, as Pierantoni pointed out during Monday’s hearing, the state is not required to guarantee eventually freedom.
Monday’s hearing comes after a lengthy period of testimony in January, when, for three days, prosecutors and defense attorneys argued why Crawford should either stay in, or be given the opportunity to eventually be released from, prison.
Assistant District Attorney Jim McMonagle on Monday reiterated the prosecution’s previous points before Pierantoni read the sentence, saying that Crawford needs to be held accountable for his crimes. Prosecutors were looking for between 35 years and life in prison for each homicide, to be run consecutively.
Defense attorney Sara Jacobson, though, asked for leniency, in spite of the loss of life. The defense was asking for a sentence of between 25 and 50 years in prison.
“With better information, the sentence can be one that respects that loss and recognizes that things have evolved here,” she said.
Part of that evolution, she said, boils down to the rehabilitative efforts Crawford has made in prison, which made up much of the testimony found in January’s multi-day hearing.
Since his incarceration, Crawford has been a model inmate, as described by employees at SCI Greene where he has been housed.
He was also described as a “beautiful” person by members of the Berwick-area Sanford family. Cindy Sanford met Crawford through art he made while in prison, and, after slowly growing close with him, she and her husband Keith decided to adopt Crawford as their son.
Algar’s husband, Robert Algar Jr., seemed to bring both of these points together while addressing the court.
“I believe that Mr. Crawford has changed his ways; he’s trying to be a better person,” he said. “He must pay for what he did. If he proves to the court he has changed, he should be given the opportunity to move forward.”
In addition to the two sentences for the homicide, Pierantoni also sentenced Crawford to an aggregated sentence of between 606 and 1,012 months, or 50.5 and 101 years, in prison for counts of conspiracy to commit murder, robbery and theft.
While these sentences will run consecutive to each other, Crawford will serve them at the same time as the homicide sentences.
The Sanford family was in court on Monday while Pierantoni read Crawford’s new sentence. They visibly grew upset when it was revealed that Crawford would not be coming to his new home any time soon.
Members of the Sanford family declined to talk with reporters after the sentencing.
Jacobson told reporters simply that the defense was disappointed with Pierantoni’s sentence, which was nearly double what they were hoping for.
McMonagle, though, said prosecutors were satisfied, but were hoping for more time.
Crawford said nothing on his way out of the courthouse, hanging his head as he walked out.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan