Correction: This page 1A story Wednesday should have reported that Taron Crawford, the suspect in the shooting death of an MU student, was released from prison March 27, after serving 28 days in a county jail for auto burglary. He was also sentenced to 12 months probation.
The man accused of killing MU student Charles Blondis had recently finished serving time in a Kansas prison and was on probation when he came to Columbia, according to Wyandotte County, Kan., court records.
Taron Crawford, 20, of Kansas City, Kan., pleaded guilty to two charges of automobile burglary on March 26 in a Kansas court. Crawford was sentenced in May to seven months in prison and 12 months probation, according to court records. He had already served 28 days before his sentencing.
Though the exact date Crawford was released from prison is unknown, court records indicate that if Crawford had served his full sentence, he would have gotten out of jail Nov. 12, just four days before attending the party. He was still on probation.
Crawford was in Columbia visiting his girlfriend and attended the party in the 1500 block of Riva Ridge Court because one of his friends knew someone there, Columbia police Capt. Mike Martin said. Partygoers said Crawford was, in many ways, out of place at a duplex packed with college students joyfully bouncing to hip-hop music and playing drinking games.
“I have no idea who they are to this day,” said party host Tony Garcia, referring to Crawford and his friend.
Garcia said that most of the nearly 100 guests at Saturday’s gathering were people he and his roommates had invited, but that the party was laid back and that they were not in the habit of kicking people out.
“It was just a lot of people having fun,” said partygoer and MU sophomore Ryan Burch. “People would just walk in and kick it because it was a really friendly party.”
The gathering was unfolding just as Garcia and his roommates had planned when they decided to throw what they called “a typical college party” for a friend’s birthday. They set up a dance floor and had plenty of space where partygoers could mingle, Garcia said.
How such a typical scene, repeated every weekend at parties across Columbia, became a crime scene is still a mystery to many of the guests.
The hostilities began when one partygoer confronted another, accusing him of inappropriately groping his girlfriend, Garcia said. Garcia said a partygoer got into a verbal argument with the person while a crowd gathered to watch.
Martin described what happened next: Two people started “bickering” back and forth to each other, and eventually the friends of each joined in, bickering at each other. Two of the friends who had started mouthing off to each other began fighting and that led some of the others to start fighting too, Martin said.
Crawford interjected himself into the fight for an unknown reason and was separated from the action by another partygoer, police said. It was then that Crawford pulled his .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun and fired three times in Blondis’ direction, hitting him once in the chest and killing him, police said.
Police and friends do not know of any motive, or why Blondis was the one targeted.
“Charley didn’t hit anyone, he was just there,” said Rafe Pepin, a friend of Blondis’. “It’s especially tragic that is was someone like that who was shot.”
Burch said that Blondis’ friends had gotten into fights before, but that Blondis rarely got involved, and when he did it was only to protect his friends.
Garcia and his roommates have not yet decided whether they can continue living in the house after what happened to their friend there.
“I don’t even feel safe at home. I was there, 10 feet away from being killed myself,” Garcia said. “My house ain’t a home anymore.”
Crawford was arraigned on Monday and is being held on $500,000 bond.
— Missourian Reporter Steve Gosik contributed to this report.