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Man Sentenced in 24-Year-Old Murder Case

April 5, 1995

KITTANNING, Pa. (AP) _ A judge sentenced a man to 10 to 20 years in prison for a murder that a witness suddenly recalled more than two decades after he saw it.

The sentence for Franklin Crawford, 49, is the maximum allowed under laws in effect in 1971, when Pearl Mae Altman drowned in the Allegheny River in Kittanning, about 35 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

A jury convicted Crawford of second-degree murder on Feb. 17 after less than two hours of deliberations.

The prosecution’s key witness, John Reed, said Crawford threw Ms. Altman into the river shortly after Reed saw the woman lying motionless on the bank. Reed, then 16, said he did not tell police because he was afraid he would be charged.

He said he forgot about the killing until 1992, when he saw a woman who resembled Ms. Altman in a supermarket.

Reed said he later heard a voice in his head saying, ``Please tell.″ He said he also dreamed about a mist that spoke to him, urging him to come forward. Ms. Altman was a neighbor of Reed.

At Tuesday’s sentencing, Armstrong County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Nickleach recounted Crawford’s criminal record including an eight-year prison term for manslaughter in the beating death of his girlfriend’s son.

``In your history, two lives have been taken _ one of a child, two years of age, the other of a young woman. I conclude that you are a dangerous person to society,″ Nickleach said.

Crawford maintains his innocence and may appeal the sentence, said his attorney, Preston Younkins.

According to testimony, Crawford and Ms. Altman met at a tavern the night of the killing. Prosecutors did not attempt to establish a motive.

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