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March 15, 2003

Confessed killer chided by judge

From: Philadelphia Daily News, PA - 15 Mar 2003

He'll plead 'diminished capacity'


Confession may be good for the soul, but don't expect it to get you far in court.

Alex Crespo, who overcame a drug habit, found God and confessed to a 7-year-old murder he could have gotten away with, still got reamed out yesterday in Municipal Court.

"Sir, here's the bad news," Municipal Judge Seamus McCaffery said in announcing that Crespo, 28, must stand trial for murdering 21-year-old Blanche Van Guilder on a Kensington street corner in 1995.

"The good news is, I won't be the judge hearing the case," McCaffery added.

That is good news for Crespo.

McCaffery, a former cop and prosecutor, usually doesn't hide his disdain for defendants like Crespo.

"Walking down the street with her boyfriend, bothering nobody... .I think I worked on hundreds and hundreds of murders and these are the worst," McCaffery said, referring to his days as a cop.

As McCaffery spoke, Crespo - a slight man with glasses - bowed his head. His arms were trembling.

"The judge is right: this is a terrible, terrible thing," Earl Kauffman, Crespo's attorney, said after the hearing.

But, Kauffman added, in the end, Crespo did the right thing.

"This is an extraordinary situation," he said.

Crespo will not plead guilty to the murder, Kauffman said. He will go to trial in Common Pleas Court with the defense that he had "diminished capacity" at the time of the shooting because he was under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, angel dust and Xanax.

Kauffman said he hoped the defense will result in nothing more serious than a third-degree murder conviction.

Van Guilder, who was deaf, was walking with her boyfriend Tim Laumeister at about 9:30 p.m. March 1, 1995, when a car sped by and the passenger fired a sawed-off shotgun.

"We were walking down the street and then all of a sudden I felt something on my left shoulder," Laumeister testified yesterday through a sign language interpreter. "I tried to look at it and I smelled something burning. Then I looked and I saw something hit my girlfriend and it exploded her face and she fell down."

Laumeister was not seriously injured.

Philadelphia Police Detective David Baker testified that during his confession last month, Crespo said he killed Van Guilder because he was high and angry.

"I'm going to shoot the first person I see," Crespo said that night, according to his statement to police. After the shooting, according to the statement, Crespo went home and slept off his high.

The next morning he didn't remember what had happened until the driver of the car reminded him.

Crespo told Baker that he confessed because "the Lord has impressed it upon my heart. I want to bring closure and face the family."

Florence Van Guilder, Blanche's mother, said after the hearing that she was too upset to comment on the proceedings. She said during a previous interview that she did not want to see Crespo put to death for the crime.

Crespo's arraignment is scheduled for May 8.

© 2003 Philadelphia Daily News and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.