DeLand man guilty in strangling, stabbing death of girlfriend — (Daytona Beach News-Journal)

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Daytona Beach News-Journal

Posted Dec 15, 2016 at 6:19 PM, Updated Dec 15, 2016 at 6:51 PM

DAYTONA BEACH – Jeffrey Crivelli did not appear to react in court Thursday, not even a flinch when a clerk read the verdict against him: guilty of first-degree premeditated murder for killing his ex-girlfriend last year in DeLand.

Crivelli strangled and stabbed 33-year-old Brandy Johnson on the night of June 9, 2015, as she prepared to move out and leave him to get a fresh start in life and pursue a degree at Stetson University. The pair lived in Apartment A at the Lyn Gardens Apartment.

DeLand police found Johnson’s battered body in a closet covered by a mattress. They found her frightened 4-year-old son down the hall in a dark bedroom. The child told police, “Mommy’s dead.”

The jury of eight men and four women took 34 minutes to return a guilty verdict after the three-day trial at the S. James Foxman Justice Center.

Crivelli, 32, requested a sentencing hearing even though Circuit Judge Terence Perkins has no discretion and by law must sentence him to life in prison. Crivelli will continue to be held without bail at the Volusia County Branch Jail awaiting his sentencing date.

Assistant Public Defender John Selden argued in his closing that Crivelli was not guilty of first-degree premeditated murder. Selden said Crivelli overreacted after Johnson grabbed Crivelli’s neck during a confrontation. Then Crivelli panicked and fled.

“She grabbed his neck and he lost it,” Selden said.

Selden, who along with Assistant Public Defender Brittany O’Neal, also told jurors that Crivelli had recently run out of Adderall and had just started taking Zoloft. Adderall is used to treat attention hyperactivity disorder and Zoloft is for depression. It was a defense of “involuntary intoxication” a legal term meaning the drugs had impaired Crivelli’s ability to think clearly.

But prosecutors Jason Lewis and Tammy Jaques argued that Crivelli had plenty of time to realize what he was doing and stop short of killing Johnson. They called an expert who said the drugs would not have caused the impairment claimed by the defense.

Johnson was strangled and stabbed repeatedly. Lewis showed jurors a combination cane sword that Crivelli used to stab Johnson. Putting on plastic gloves, Lewis unsheathed a long, slim sword from the cane.

Lewis told jurors that Crivelli’s statements to police showed that Johnson’s killing was premeditated murder.

“I just decided to go through with it. I mean, there’s no other way around it. It was, like, stop, there’s already damage done. Definitely going to jail,” Crivelli said in the recorded statement.

“I tried to – like I said, I had tried to snap her neck and end it quickly and it didn’t work,” Crivelli told police.

“I just kept squeezing as hard as I could and it didn’t seem to change anything, like she was still gasping and there was like it didn’t seem like it was ending,” Crivelli said in the recording.

Johnson’s best friend, Kelly Lowe, said after the trial that she was pleased by the verdict.

“I’m very happy with the results of the trial,” said Lowe, who still lives at the Lyn Gardens Apartment. “Jeff had plenty of time to get help, to stop what he was doing.”

“We’ve waited a long time for this,” said Johnson’s cousin Stephanie Kaiser. “We are just happy that justice was finally served and he will never hurt another family like this again.”