Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday 3 January 2001

Witness was 'joking' about killing

Brent Crawford testifies at Cherrylle Dell trial

Peter Hum
The Ottawa Citizen

Fred Sebastian, The Ottawa Citizen / Brent Crawford testified yesterday in the Cherrylle Dell trial.

When Brent Crawford told police he was a killer, he was a jobless, prospectless nobody, attracted by the idea of becoming an infamous criminal, court was told yesterday.

Mr. Crawford, 19, also said that he confessed to killing Nancy Fillmore in 1997 so that police would confirm there was no sexual element to the woman's death, thus protecting his reputation behind bars.

"If I didn't 'fess up to doing it, I was going to be tagged as a rapist ... lower than scum on a floor," Mr. Crawford testified yesterday.

Mr. Crawford, who now maintains he had nothing to do with Ms. Fillmore's death, 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 was testifying because the two deaths, police allege, are inextricably bound together.

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

Ms. Fillmore died in August 1997 after her apartment caught fire, and 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 then set the apartment ablaze by tipping over a table with candles on it. He told police that Mrs. Dell paid him $750 to kill her ex-lover.

Mr. Crawford said yesterday that he had told police several lies to make his life "sound a little bit better." He also said he had told people he was connected to the Mafia and to biker gangs, hoping to impress them.

Mr. Crawford said in confessing, he simply made up the story of killing Ms. Fillmore as he went along.

The circumstances of Ms. Fillmore's death were the stuff of Killaloe gossip, court has heard. However, court also heard that Mr. Crawford began telling people he was involved in Ms. Fillmore's death just days after the fire.

When Pembroke Crown attorney Peter Barnes put these admissions to Mr. Crawford, he responded that he was "probably joking around."

He also said he could not recall such conversations taking place.

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.

The trial, which began Nov. 20, resumes today.

Copyright 2001 Ottawa Citizen Group Inc.