Murder suspect enters plea

July 21, 2003 11:00 pm

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

An Arnold man charged with shooting and killing an Avery resident pleaded not guilty yesterday to first-degree murder and other charges.

Arlin Dale Crawford, 39, was arrested June 11, five days after Bradford Lavelle Davis was found dead near White Pines Lake.

Calaveras County Sheriff's Department Captain Ron McFall said last week that Crawford allegedly killed Davis, 52, because Davis might have assaulted a mutual friend.

However, after yesterday's arraignment in Calaveras County Superior Court, Crawford's father said his son was innocent.

"They have the wrong person in custody and I am very irritated by it," said Darrell Crawford, a county resident for 22 years before moving to Nevada County a couple weeks before Davis was reported missing.

Arlin Crawford faces charges of first-degree murder with a gun, being a felon in possession of a firearm, cultivating marijuana and drug possession.

Carol Stites, a 44-year-old mental-health nurse who lives with Crawford in the Mill Woods subdivision, was also arrested last week but was released because, District Attorney Jeff Tuttle said, there was not enough evidence to charge her in the murder. He said charges are unlikely in the future.

As he was when he first appeared in court last week, Crawford appeared calm throughout his arraignment hearing. Sitting in a juror's seat and wearing a red prison jumpsuit, he smiled at his attorney and family members as they entered the courtroom.

When Judge Douglas Mewhinney announced that Crawford's preliminary hearing would be at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 24, Crawford jokingly replied, "I'll be there."

Public Defender Cyril Ash, Crawford's attorney, would not comment on the case yesterday.

McFall said the investigation into the homicide continues. Evidence collected from four vehicles impounded last week has been sent to the state Department of Justice for testing, he said. The evidence could include hair, fibers or body fluids.

He said the sheriff's department is simply trying to "beef up" its case.