Taron Crawford, 20, of Kansas City, Kan., was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the shooting death of MU sophomore Charles Blondis.
After emotional testimony by parents of both the victim and the convicted killer, Circuit Court Judge Gene Hamilton sentenced Crawford to 25 years on a second-degree murder charge and five years for armed criminal action. The sentences will run concurrently.
Crawford, who had come to Columbia to visit his girlfriend, admitted to accidentally shooting Blondis during a party on Riva Ridge Court the night of Nov. 15, 2003.
“I’ve heard you and other witnesses talk about an accident,” Judge Hamilton told Crawford. “Fact is, (the) jury said it was murder. I can’t disagree.”
Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Knight called three witnesses to testify against Crawford. Witnesses Alba and Tom Blondis, the victim’s parents, both asked for the maximum penalty for Crawford.
Blondis’ mother said she cries every day.
“He is frozen in time at 18,” said Alba Blondis, who later spoke of her son’s love for Italy and his Italian roots. “If he was alive, he would be in Florence this month.”
Asked what kind of sentence she would ask for, Alba Blondis said that initially she wanted Crawford to die, but now she thinks he deserves life in prison to remind him of his act.
“I sincerely believe this young man is a danger to society,” she testified.
Tom Blondis, his left arm in a sling from recent surgery, quavered as he spoke of his profound grief for his son.
“He represented the last male in my, Blondis, family,” he said.
The father spoke fondly of working out, discussing philosophy and other activities he used to enjoy with his son.
“I just hope I don’t become a bitter person,” Tom Blondis said. “He was a better boy at 18 than a man I was at that age.”
Alba Blondis also spoke about her son’s disabled sister, Claire. She said Charles Blondis cared for his older sister, “but now he’s not there to help.”
Knight called Claire Blondis to the stand as well.
“His memories will be in my heart forever,” she said.
Crawford’s attorney, Roderick Smith, called several character witnesses.
Crawford’s father, Al Crawford said he thinks his son was provoked.
“My son’s not a violent individual,” the elder Crawford said. “Every man provoked will react.”
Tenille Crawford, Crawford’s older sister, testified that she thinks the shooting was an accident and that her brother was provoked because multiple people were kicking and beating him. She spoke about how close they were growing up, but now “I see him only for two hours a week, on Tuesday,” she said.
Asked what kind of punishment she would like to see for her brother, Tenille Crawford broke down in tears. “I plead the mercy of the court,” she said. “I wish my brother could come home.”
The Rev. Mark Gaines, a minister at Roswell Church of Christ in Kansas City, Kan., said Crawford was not a cold-blooded killer.
“I want to see the opportunity to rehabilitate him,” Gaines said.
Finally, Taron Crawford took the stand and made a short, but emotional, appeal.
“I would like to apologize and ask for forgiveness of the friends and family of Blondis and the court for this accident,” he said.
Knight, however, characterized Crawford as a career criminal guilty of burglary and theft in the Kansas City area.
Crawford’s attorney disagreed.
“He did not intend to shoot to kill,” Roderick Smith said, adding that alcohol was involved and the jury should have chosen manslaughter instead of second-degree murder.
“I do not know (if) the truth was brought up here,” Smith told the judge. “The sentencing process is not a process to exact revenge.”
After the sentencing, Taron Crawford told the court that he was dissatisfied with his lawyer and planned to file an appeal. He said that he wanted to call another witness, friend Candice Bunny, and that she would testify that she saw him shooting in the air.