Family split over father's support of killer

Family members of a 17-year-old Crescenta Valley High School student shot to death in 1991 say they disagree with her father’s support of a state decision to grant parole to her killer.

Mark Cosman wrote in support of granting parole to his daughter’s killer, Paul Crowder, a blessing that factored heavily in the decision of the state parole board’s recommendation. But other family members of the slain girl, Berlyn Cosman, say they were never consulted and have initiated a letter-writing campaign to the governor in an effort to stop Crowder’s release.

Crowder was convicted to 15 years to life, plus four years, for shooting Berlyn Cosman in the head on June 1, 1991 as she slept in her room after a prom night party at the Sterling Crown Suites Hotel in Anaheim.

Crowder, who was 19 at the time, has claimed the shooting was unintentional and the gun accidentally fired when he waved it around.

Berlyn’s sisters say they don’t want him released because, they said, he hasn’t taken responsibility for the shooting death.

“I was just pretty blown away by my dad,” Morgan Cosman said. “Our family is totally against this. We are trying to get people to write letters.”

The family said Mark Cosman’s actions may adversely impact their letter-writing campaign and final plea to Gov. Jerry Brown to keep Crowder behind bars.

Berlyn’s father acknowledged that his views don’t represent his entire family.

“I do not speak for my family,” he said. “They have taken a different approach that I understand and fully support.”

But in exchanging letters with Crowder, who is incarcerated at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, for several years, Mark Cosman said “a person emerged from the murderer.”

“In the years following Berlyn’s murder, I was forced to live without an answer as to why Paul Crowder killed her,” he said. “The anguish and gnawing confusion was devastating, so I reached out to Paul, the only one who had the answers. It is not that I forgave him by doing so — rather, I wanted answers.”

Mark Cosman, who wrote a book about dealing with his daughter's murder, sent a letter to state corrections officials, stating that he didn’t believe Crowder would harm anyone.

“With time, it occurred to me that the only good left to do from the tragedy was to retrieve Paul Crowder from the claustrophobic hell of prison,” he said. “My hope is that as a result, he would always remember Berlyn in reestablishing his place in society. I found no solace in maintaining hatred or in seeking the continuation of his suffering.”

Berlyn Cosman’s sister, Terian Chertok, acknowledged that for her father, speaking with Crowder was “more of a personal quest than it was a legal quest,” but still opposed the parole decision.

Berlyn’s mother, Susan Cosman, said she read some of the letters that Crowder sent her ex-husband, but didn’t want to respond.

For 20 years, she has remained silent about her daughter’s death for “personal family concerns.”

“This is something that I have carried,” she said. “I don’t wish this on anybody.”

Susan Cosman said her daughter’s death was devastating and she was a “mess for the first month” after the shooting.

“I still had her sister to bring up and I had to deal with having lost a daughter,” she said.

Susan Cosman said her ex-husband’s view of Crowder and her daughter’s death is philosophical, adding that he has dedicated the past 20 years to finding out what happened that night.

Prosecutors also argued against Crowder’s release, saying that his “reluctance to acknowledge the true circumstances of the crime shows a tremendous lack of insight, which is required for him to have any chance of success at parole.”

Officials for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s parole board still have 120 days to review the decision. Gov. Jerry Brown has 30 days to review the decision or take no action, which would effectively allow Crowder’s release.

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