By Rick Hiduk
(exclusive to endlessmtnlifestyles.com readers)
Police officers from several jurisdictions following up a reported carjacking at the intersection of Tioga and Bridge streets in Tunkhannock on Aug. 9 thought they had instead stumbled on to an ugly domestic dispute. Further investigation made them realize that the man they had in custody – Thomas Aaron Crawford – is wanted in Texas for aggravated sexual assault of a child and trafficking of minors.
Just after 1 am on Aug. 9, unknown persons called 911 after witnessing a man walking to the car at the intersection and shouting at the occupant, then walking to the car behind it, kicking at the windows and getting in and driving away. Tunkhannock Borough Police called for assistance from Tunkhannock Township, Meshoppen Borough and Pennsylvania State Police.
The suspect was described as about six feet tall with a reddish beard and wearing a red shirt. Tunkhannock Township patrolman Patrick Butkiewicz and Meshoppen police chief John Krieg went into the Blogg, a bar on Tioga Street, to see if anyone matched the description. They were told by the bartender that someone of that appearance had been at the bar with a young woman who had paid their tab with a credit card. The employee gave the officers the woman’s name and told them that the couple had left in a small silver vehicle.
Tunkhannock patrolman Don Hornlien conducted an internet search of the woman and found a social media page indicating that she had recently married Crawford. Hornlien, Krieg and Butkiewicz continued to search the immediate area, while PSP troopers Justin Landsiedel and William Clark went to the Tunkhannock Township address, where a silver Honda Civic was observed in the driveway, still warm to the touch. The municipal officers then joined PSP at the residence.
Crawford, 36, was questioned outside, while the woman was interviewed inside. She informed police that she had been severely assaulted upon their return to the residence from the bar.
“Thomas got upset because he thought the bartender was flirting with me,” she wrote in a two-page statement for the police. She explained how he’d gotten out of their car at the intersection and approached the vehicle in front of them before returning to their car. Crawford threw a number of the victim’s personal items out the car window on the way home.
“When we got home, he started accusing me and blaming me for things I’d never done,” she stated. Crawford became violent, she continued, head-butting and choking her, burning her with a cigarette, and pinning her down. The assault continued for about 30 minutes until police knocked at the door. According to Butkiewicz, her injuries were consistent with her description of the attack.
In the meantime, a dispatcher at the Wyoming County Communication Center informed Butkiewicz that Crawford was wanted in Texas for trafficking persons under the age of 18, aggravated assault, and sexual assault of a child. Though the warrants were confirmed, technical problems prevented their immediate transmission via fax.
Butkiewicz took Crawford into custody for domestic assault and placed him in a cruiser for transportation and processing. During that time, the female told Krieg that Crawford had raped her earlier in the day, ignoring her verbal protests.
Crawford was remanded to the Wyoming County Correctional Facility after being charged with rape/forcible compulsion, strangulation/applying pressure to the throat and neck, unlawful restraint, serious bodily injury, simple assault, physical harassment, sexual assault, and two counts of aggravated indecent assault. His preliminary hearing in front of district magistrate David Plummer is set for Aug. 20.
The investigation is ongoing.