‘Beer Muscle’ Was Factor in Girl’s Death, D.A. Charges : Crime: Witnesses to after-prom party shooting tell grand jury that a belligerent Paul Michael Crowder harassed the victim earlier in the evening before allegedly shooting her.
Witnesses to the fatal shooting of a La Crescenta girl at an after-prom party in Anaheim told a grand jury that Paul Michael Crowder earlier had argued with the victim and several other teen-agers in the group and had made angry comments about killing some of them, transcripts show.
At one point Crowder unloaded the gun at the insistence of several other party-goers, according to the transcripts, but apparently reloaded it later.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher J. Evans called the shooting the tragic result of “beer muscle.”
“This guy is the Charles Atlas of beer muscle guys,” Evans told the grand jury last month. “Some guys drink a few beers and the bravado starts to roll out. This kid needs that hole in his personality filled by that gun.”
Crowder, 19, is accused of second-degree murder in the June 1 shooting death of Berlyn Cosman, 17, a La Crescenta high school student who had gone with her date and several other couples to a post-prom party at the Crown-Sterling Suites Hotel.
Transcripts of the hearing before the grand jury, which indicted Crowder last month, show that he had been invited to go along in part to act as a “bodyguard” because one of the girls in the group was worried that a jealous ex-boyfriend might cause trouble.
However, the transcripts show that several in the group were clearly upset that Crowder was waving a gun around, carrying it in his belt much of the night.
Kenny Schaffer, who was Cosman’s date, said one of the girls in the group asked Crowder to unload the gun. “He said OK and unloaded it,” Schaffer told the grand jury.
Another girl in the group took the bullets off the table where Crowder had carefully lined them up on end in a row, but the several witnesses who testified before the grand jury did not know what happened to them after that.
One witness testified that when one of the party-goers sternly told Crowder to put the gun away, Crowder placed the gun next to the young man’s buttocks and said: “Do you want your (buttocks) blown off?”
Crowder apparently was upset because Cosman and another girl, Jill Cappillero, refused to let him party in their room where they were trying to sleep.
Mitchell Stroup, one of the teen-agers, testified the girls told Crowder: “No, you can’t come in here. . . . Go party in the other room.”
That apparently prompted Crowder to shout expletives at the girls, criticizing Cappillero in particular. Stroup said Crowder returned to the other room and yelled: “They’re bitches. I hate them. I want to kill them.” When others tried to calm him down, according to Stroup, Crowder said, " . . . I don’t care about you guys anymore. You guys are jerks.”
Soon after that, Cappillero came into the main party room and argued with Crowder again, this time with the girl shouting expletives at Crowder.
A short time later, Crowder returned to the room where Cappillero and Cosman were sleeping, still waving the gun, which went off in the dark. It entered Cosman’s skull and killed her while she slept on a couch.
Someone in the group turned on a light, according to one of the witnesses, and everyone--including Crowder--began to wonder aloud where the shot had gone. Immediately afterward, according to witness Stroup, Crowder told another friend, Javier Pimental, “We got to go, Jav, we got to go.”
The weapon was later found in bushes near the hotel. Crowder left the scene, according to witness Schaffer, after someone shouted that Cosman had been shot. Crowder was arrested several hours later at his home.
Despite Crowder’s arguments with the two girls, prosecutors do not contend that he returned to the room to kill either of them, which would be premeditated, first-degree murder. They will seek a lesser murder verdict based on “implied malice,” contending that Crowder knew his actions could result in danger to human life.
Crowder’s lawyer, E. Bonnie Marshall, has called the incident an unfortunate accident. However, some of the grand jurors raised questions that could be issues at Crowder’s trial. One wanted to know whether prosecutors thought the shooting might be manslaughter, a lesser charge, instead of murder. Another questioned how much Crowder might have had to drink.
Crowder’s trial is scheduled to start in two weeks before Superior Court Judge Theodore E. Millard. Crowder is being held on $250,000 bail.