The decision to grant parole to a 39-year-old man who in 1991 shot and killed a 17-year-old Crescenta Valley High School student on prom night was met with muted public reaction Thursday.
Attempts to reach the family of Berlyn Cosman — who was shot June 1, 1991, as she slept in her room after a prom night party at the Sterling Crown Suites Hotel in Anaheim — were unsuccessful, and community members who’ve been involved in the safe-prom cause since her death declined to comment on the parole decision, which was issued Wednesday.
Instead, they said the news served as a reminder that the need for safe post-prom gatherings, like Crescenta Valley High’s Prom Plus, was still important.
“It’s a good thing for the community to remember how things can go terribly wrong,” said Linda Evans, the high’s school former principal, who was a teacher at the time of the murder.
The inmate, Paul Crowder, was serving 15 years to life, plus four years for killing Berlyn. Crowder argued in court that his gun accidentally fired.
Prosecutors argued against Crowder’s release at his parole hearing, saying he hasn’t taken responsibility for killing Berlyn. The Orange County district attorney’s office claimed that Crowder took just one anger management class in prison.
Berlyn’s father, Mark Cosman, wrote in favor of Crowder’s parole to state corrections officials, according to records filed with the state appellate court.
“I am under the opinion that [Crowder] does not seek to harm anyone,” Mark Cosman stated. “I further believe that the delusions of his ill years, which ultimately led to his grievous crime, for the most part have been dispelled.”
Mark Cosman — who wrote a book about dealing with his daughter’s murder — apparently came to his opinion after Crowder sent an apology letter, setting off years of back-and-forth letter writing between the pair, according to court records.
Gov. Jerry Brown must still sign off on the parole board’s decision, a move that is likely given Mark Cosman’s support.
Crowder, who was 19 at the time, was not a La Crescenta student, but went to the prom night party with Berlyn’s boyfriend.
Crowder was drinking alcohol and had two guns, one of which he waved around, prosecutors said.
When Berlyn refused to let him sleep in the hotel room, Crowder became angry, according to the district attorney’s office. He later entered the room with a gun, waved it around, and then a round struck Berlyn.
Berlyn had received a scholarship to play college basketball, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.
“It’s been a loss to our world that Berlyn’s life was cut short,” Evans said.
Evans worked closely with Berlyn, who was her teacher’s assistant.
“It’s bad for the Crowder family. It’s bad of the Cosman family,” said Robin Goldsworthy, president of Prom Plus. “This was bad, bad all the way around.”
Two years after Berlyn’s death, local residents created the post-prom party as a safe alternative for students who want to continue to celebrate into the wee hours, Goldsworthy said.
Prom Plus costs $20,000 to $25,000 annually and is held at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, during which students have access to games, food and dancing.