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The Cincinnati Post
By Tony Cook, Post staff reporter
Dale Crowe’s once promising boxing career took a turn for the worse after he nearly killed Greg Page, a former heavyweight champion from Kentucky. But Crowe’s downward spiral hit a new low earlier this week when he was indicted for murder.
Crowe, 29, formerly of Norwood, faces charges in the August 2002 death of 23-year-old Frank Branam, of Pleasant Ridge.
Branam, who earlier this year finished a year in prison on a felony count of marijuana possession, was close friends with Crowe, said Branam’s family.
Branam disappeared on the evening of August 10, 2002. Crowe was the last person to see Branam alive, according to Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Rick Gibson. For days, Branam’s family could not find him. They called Crowe, who said he had dropped Branam off at a Taco Bell that night, said Lona Carr, Branam’s mother.
More than 40 days later, a group of skateboarding kids climbed into a Dumpster to look for ramp-building material off Ridge Avenue in Columbia Township. They found Branam’s partially decomposed body.
Police interviewed Crowe, but he denied any involvement in the homicide, Gibson said.
Not until this month did authorities come up with enough evidence to make their case before a grand jury, Gibson said. He wouldn’t reveal what new evidence had turned up.
Crowe is charged with aggravated murder, murder and aggravated robbery.
Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies arrested him after a municipal court appearance for an unrelated criminal damaging charge. Crowe is accused of punching out another man’s vehicle window in that case.
He is now being held at the Hamilton County Justice Center on a $1.6 million bond.
Crowe’s court-appointed attorney, John Keller, could not be reached for comment on Friday night.
Hamilton County Coroner O’dell Owens has not released the cause of death because it is evidence in the case, he said.
But Carr said Owens told her that Branam had suffered several blows to the head and had been held against his will. There were no gunshot or stab wounds, she said.
In March 2001, Crowe made headlines when he beat former heavyweight champion Greg Page of Louisville so severely during a boxing match at Peel’s Place, a now closed bar and social club in Erlanger, that Page suffered permanent brain injury.
Crowe, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound up-and-coming southpaw, leveled a thunderous left-hand blow on the then 42-year-old Page in the 10th round of the fight for the Kentucky state heavyweight title.
Page, who held the world boxing heavyweight crown in 1984 for five months, crumbled to the canvas and went into a coma. He underwent brain surgery to remove a blood clot and suffered a stroke during the operation, paralyzing him on the left side.
At the time, Crowe blamed himself.
“I felt guilty; I felt like I took a person’s life from him,” he said in October 2002 – less than a month after Branam’s body was found.
Crowe said he began taking anti-depressants and seeing a psychiatrist after the fight. He had a record of 22-6-2 going into the Page fight, including 14 knockouts. In his four fights after, he had two losses and two draws.
But after those four fights, Page and Crowe became friends. Crowe told media outlets – he even appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show – that he was happy again and that Page had given his life purpose again.
Carr, 50, of North College Hill, lamented that her son, who was cleaning up his life after prison and fixing up a house, would never get that chance.
But the arrest of a suspect in her son’s death – more than 3½ years after his disappearance – has helped bring some closure for the family, she said.
“I was so happy I was about to explode,” Carr said of Crowe’s indictment.