Ottawa Citizen
Friday 15 December 2000

Witness was 'seeking attention' when he confessed to killing

Man denies role in death of Dell's former lover

Peter Hum
The Ottawa Citizen

Although Brent Crawford told police and his parents last year that he was a killer, he testified yesterday his confessions were simply bids for "attention."

"At the time, I was seeking any attention I could get," the 19-year-old testified yesterday.

Mr. Crawford gave evidence yesterday at an Ottawa murder trial, although he is not on trial. His acquaintance, Cherrylle Dell, a 46-year-old Killaloe woman, is on trial, charged with killing her estranged husband, Scott, in December 1995 by poisoning him. Mr. Crawford is charged with killing another Killaloe woman, Nancy Fillmore, in August 1997 by setting a fatal fire at her home.

Authorities allege the two deaths are related in that Ms. Fillmore was Mrs. Dell's lover when Mr. Dell died, and that Mrs. Dell persuaded Mr. Crawford to kill Ms. Fillmore to silence the Crown's key witness against her regarding the death of her husband.

Mrs. Dell faces another first-degree murder trial in connection with Ms. Fillmore's death, separate from Mr. Crawford's trial. Still, evidence pertaining to Ms. Fillmore's death is being heard in the current trial, leaving defence lawyers effectively dealing with two murder trials in one.

Court has viewed videotapes of a July 1999 police interview with Mr. Crawford. Following his arrest and a four-hour interview, Mr. Crawford told police he went to Ms. Fillmore's home on Aug. 19, 1997, picked the lock and found Ms. Fillmore passed out on the floor.

He said he set the apartment ablaze by tipping over a table with candles on it. He also said Ms. Fillmore wanted him to kill Mrs. Dell "because of her feeling threatened by her."

"The table was turned," he continued.

Mr. Crawford also told police he had had a sexual relationship with Mrs. Dell. "It wasn't an in-the-bedroom thing. It was more or less just fooling around," he specified.

Mr. Crawford told then Det.-Const. Ken Leppert that Mrs. Dell paid him $750 the day after Ms. Fillmore died, and the money had been hidden for him in an envelope under a park bench. He said he used the money to get his ear pierced, as well as a friend's ear pierced, and to buy drugs.

Yesterday, he maintained the detailed story he related to police was a giant fabrication.

He maintained he never had sexual contact with Mrs. Dell. Why had he lied to police? "I just wanted to spice up the story a little bit," he testified.

He acknowledged he told police that Ms. Fillmore was seen as a "star witness" against Mrs. Dell, but said he had simply "heard that somewhere." He said he had told other people about his involvement with Ms. Fillmore's death only "to gain face."

He did get his ear pierced, but he paid with his own money, he said. He knew about candles in Ms. Fillmore's apartment, he said, from seeing them on two earlier visits. And he was able to describe seeing Ms. Fillmore passed out on the floor because "it was common knowledge."

Mr. Crawford maintained his confession was a sham despite agreeing with his interrogator that the evidence against him was "overwhelming."

Ontario Superior Court Justice James Chadwick is to rule whether the videotaped interview, as well as Mr. Crawford's similar admissions during telephone calls to his parents, can be admitted as evidence against Mrs. Dell, demonstrating "post-offence conduct" pointing to guilt in the death of her husband.

If the judge allows the tapes as evidence, then defence lawyers are expected to call as many as 30 witnesses to assail Mr. Crawford's credibility.

The trial resumes Jan. 2.

Copyright 2001 Ottawa Citizen Group Inc.