FAYETTE COUNTY: (Part I of II) Crystal Weimer Spent 11 Plus Years in Jail for a Crime she did not Commit

Curtis Haith and Crystal Weimer were at a party one night, and they drank a couple of beers, had “chemistry”, went to a bar and then went to an after party. Hours later, Haith was found dead. He was face up, severely beaten with a gun shot to his head. A year and a half later, Crystal Weimer was charged with murder.

Uniontown is a small town, once a booming economic town due to the coal industry, now it is one of those small towns in rural Pennsylvania that has all but collapsed under the weight of economic recession and the drug epidemic.

Crystal, a fast food worker, and mother by age of sixteen lived on the Southside. She was struggling like anyone else in a dried up rural Pennsylvania coal town. She had two girls by age 23.

On January 26, 2001, Crystal was unemployed and had been for some months. Her sister invited her for a night out to cut loose and take a break. Crystal, with some convincing, showed up at her sister’s house for some relaxation. There was a small party going on, with multiple guests. Among those guests was Curtis Haith.

Haith had attended culinary school in Pittsburgh, but had been unable to finish due to the stretched economics of his family. He could not afford the tuition, and his ambitions of being a professional chef went to the wayside. It was under these circumstances where Haith and Weimer met at a party.

They seemed to hit it off, and friends noted there seemed to be some chemistry.

Crystal and her cousin left the party offering Curtis a ride home. On the way home, the three decided to stop at a bar. They had a few more drinks, and then went back to Haith’s home to continue the party. Testimony at trial notes indicates that multiple people that night noted the chemistry between Haith and Weimer.

Later that night, a 911 call was made by Haith’s neighbor. He was found dead on the scene when the police and emergency personnel arrived.

They searched the scene and searched his clothing, they found weed in his pocket and a bong, and multiple smoking devices in his tiny apartment, which was scattered with beer bottles and reminants of the party.

A second neighbor had called police after hearing Haith begging for his life, then gun shots, then tires squealing. She was able to relate to police that Haith had a late night party at his house.

They had no leads, so they went to track down witnesses. Some assumed it had a drug deal gone bad, but Haith (unemployed) seldom smoked marijuana as he was struggling just to eat.

Law enforcement began to track down witness after witness. Crystal was among those on the list who had been seen with Haith. Police officers knocked on the door of her home, and Crystal opened. Her face had dried blood on it, and she was limping with a broken toe. The Uniontown police were immediately suspicious and she was taken into custody immediately.

Crystal claimed that she and her cousin had taken Haith to the bar, but they had left him there, and she had no idea how Haith ended up shot in the face. The police siezed her shirt, and sent Crystal home. They were planning on DNA testing her T-shirt in hopes of finding his DNA on her shirt.

Worsening the situation, the coroner returned with the autopsy report, and the cause of death was listed as blunt force trauma. As in the gun shot had penetrated his cheek and broken a few teeth, but that had not been the cause of death. Law enforcement were dumbfounded, and immediately began to surmise that perhaps Crystal’s broken toe was due to her kicking Haith to death. With no leads on the “drug deal gone bad” theory, it seemed to make sense that some altercation had occurred.

Crystal was bloodied and bruised with a broken toe, she was also defiantly not cooperating with police. Her story as to how she got her injuries was that she was beaten by an ex-boyfriend. They wanted to forensics from the T-shirt back, but it was clear they already had their murder suspect.

Crystal was at home and not charged. The 23 year old mother continued to drink, likely due to the stress of it all. A few days later the partial forensic report on her T-shirt came back. A state agronomist had matched the dirt found on Crystal’s T-Shirt to the dirt around Haith’s apartment. The blood analysis from the T-shirt did not come at the same time as the initial report, but a few days later.

By this time the cops were convinced they had found Haith’s killer. So when the blood results from the T-shirt came back negative, they had already set their sights on her and ignored the emerging evidence. They had been about town feverishly collecting witness affidavits, and the affidavits they collected had been incriminating.

Armed with the “dirt/mud” evidence, and the witness affidavits, they had already built a convincing case. So when the forensic blood results from the T-shirt came back, they ignored the results that seemed to exonerate her involvement. They had their target, and were actively building a case.

Later during the pre-trial stage of the investigation, the prosecution had sought to find out whose blood it was on Crystal’s t-shirt if it wasn’t Haith’s. Afterall, they were worried that the murderer Crystal Weimer could have an accomplice. They tested multiple witnesses that night and associates of Haith and Weimer. Stunningly enough they found their answer. The foriegn blood on Crystal’s T-shirt had matched her ex boyfriend. Just as Crystal had claimed that blood was from altercation with her ex-boyfriend, the evidence corroborated.

By this time though, the police had already pegged her as the killer. So that piece of evidence that matched her alliby was all but discarded in building her case. Now they were even more motivated to find additional witnesses and additional evidence to implicate Crystal. Realizing it would be a shaky case, they took to the streets and approached the coroner again. By this point, they were not seeking the truth, they were building their case.

Murders in Union town in the early 2000s were a rare thing, particularly ones this brutal. There was a ton of pressure by the media on the cops to find some justice. Additionally, in that atmosphere of pressure, Curtis Haith’s mom was reeling. She wanted a suspect caught, the police led her on convincing her Crystal had done it. So when the forensic blood analysis of Crystal’s T-shirt came back, Haith’s mom was already on board with the cops. All of these parties: the media, the family, the cops and the DA’s office believed they had their killer. The blood evidence contradicting their theories had ceased to become evidence, and now was just a theory.

Still the DA was hesitant to press charges, lacking probable cause after blood on T-shirt came back negative for being Haith’s blood. Still, the DA was not unconvinced, and the family persisted. He agreed to keep the case open, and the case remained an active investigation for a year and a half. Police took to the airwaves to ask for tips, and they set up surveillance around Weimer.

One and a half years went by, and the case was “cold”, but it wasn’t really cold at all. In a small coal town in Uniontown, the “cold” case frequently made the papers. Cops investigating the case were not looking for new leads or answers, but had thrust forward with a particular end game in mind. They didn’t want evidence to lead them in new directions, they were seeking evidence to confirm their suspect.

During this one and a half year long search, they took teeth imprints from Crystal Weimer. The coroner had found a bite mark on Haith’s hand. The dental imprints compared to the bite marks on the hand could not be matched conclusively. It seemed another dead end, and the DA was aasking for more evidence. He wanted an open and shut case, and after listening to the evidence, his instinct (along with a single seasoned police detective) was wavering. They were on the fence with a number of things, they needed more evidence.

After a year and a half they got what seemed to be a break. Small towner local and native born 35-year-old Thomas Jefferson Beal gave the last piece of “evidence” they needed to make an arrest. Beal and Weimer had dated. The blood on Crystal’s T-shirt didn’t match, so it was impossible that Crystal Weimer and Beal had been the two in the altercation with the ex boyfriend that she had claimed was her alliby on the night of the murder.

But Beal’s information was impossible to be ignored. Beal and Crystal had gone through a very contentious break-up, and Crystal had started seeing other men. There were clear signs that Beal was jealous and still interested in Crystal, who had rebuked his advances and all but moved on.

Beal told the police that one night Crystal got drunk and had confessed everything to him. He also told them that she was violent. Notably when Beal came forward with this information (1.5 years later), he did so under a situation of duress. He had been picked up on a warrant and was facing burglary charges. He was a drug addict by many accounts, and looking to strike a deal.

Crystal Weimer was his in; after all, an entire community was pressuring the cops to resolve that unspeakable murder in a small town. The case against Crystal Weimer was now complete with a “snitch” that could attest to her drunken confession. There was no physical evidence on the T-shirt, but they did have the bite mark and teeth impressions. This allowed them to tightly wrap up the case and get an arrest warrant one and a half years later after Haith’s murder.

As they were securing the warrant to pick her up on murder, a second informant came forward. Like Beal, this informant also happened to be an inmate at the Fayette County jail who was likely also seeking to strike some sort of deal in exchange for any information he could provide to solidify the case against Cryastal.

Joey Stenger was also locked up on burglary charges like Beal. Stenger complicated matters. A month prior he had been locked up on seperate charges. While incarcerated on that matter, he had told his cell mate he knew who killed Haith. He had implicated Crystal, but according to the cell mate, he had gone even further than implicating her. He said the night of Haith’s murder he was with her, and was sitting in the car and observed the murder. It was a clash of confusing stories, but all seemed to be alike enough for the police to move forward. They could combine all these jailhouse witness confessions and accounts and – if you will – stick a square peg into a round hole, which is essentially what they did in securing the warrant.

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Stenger’s cell mate (also looking for plea deal) went even further. He said that the way Stenger ended up in the car occurred outside the bar that Crystal had gone in with Haith to have a few beers in, after they left Crystal’s sister’s party. Stenger had been smoking a cigarrete outside the bar, claimed this new witness, and he had seen Crystal sitting in the driver’s seat of her car. Stenger had immediately noticed Crystal’s black eye, claimed this informant, and when Stenger approached her car to ask her about it, Crystal Weimer had informed him Haith did it.

Stenger feeling defensive of his ex girlfriend was sympathetic. His informant cell mate claims that Stenger stated he then got into the car, to go “take care of the problem.” Crystal, tearful, was on board and agreed with Stenger to drive back to Uniontown and track down Haith and “teach him a lesson.” On the way to Haith’s house, Stenger insisted that they pick up “back-up” force, and they picked up a few more guys to go confront Haith for beating up Crystal Weimer.

Stenger would later corroborate the story. But the two men they allegedly picked up were never identified or interviewed. As the story goes, when Crystal arrives at Haith’s apartment, she knocks on the door and lures him out. In the darkness were Stenger and one of the men they allegedly picked up. From the trunk of Crystal’s car they had found a crow bar, the other man had allegedly brought along a baseball bat. As soon as Crystal lured Haith out of his apartment, these strangers came out of the darkness and began beating him. Crystal (according to the jail house snitches) stood by and watched with her hands on her hips.

After investigators heard the account of the alleged events that night, they went back to Stenger (in jail at the time) to try and get the stories to match. Stenger denied everything initially. Stenger’s mother, however, who was helping him financially and cooperative with police also came forward claiming Stenger had claimed the same story. She was wondering how law enforcement could help her son if her son came clean and told the truth as to what happened that night. It turns out that law enforcement was more than willing to help Stenger, if only Stenger sang like a bird and corroborated the story of his confession as retold by his former cell mate.

It was the perfect storm.

But, eleven years later, the chargers would get thrown out in one of the most dramatic legal battles in Pennsylvania history. Stay tuned for part II, which will include (possibly) commentary on what went wrong, directly from Crystal.

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