Mt. Laurel murder suspect's GPS leads to wife's body

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The body of Erica Crippen (pictured) was discovered on March 17, 2015 behind the trees in the center of this photo on Old Frederick Road in Sykesville, Maryland. (Photo via handout and Facebook)

After killing his wife, Kyle Crosby marked two locations on a GPS device where he considered dumping her body, naming one "Maybe" and the other "Idk" for "I don't know," authorities say.

Ultimately, they say, he decided on a spot near the two: A wooded area on farmland in Sykesville, Md., where he left the body of his wife, Erica Crippen, wrapped in a blanket beneath a pile of branches.

The Mount Laurel woman's body lay there for more than two months, the tattoo on her chest and the cesarean scar from one of her two childbirths preserved beneath the cold and snow of winter.

On Tuesday, a Mount Laurel police officer working with Maryland authorities - and pulling clues from Crosby's device - found Crippen's body. Her neck, hands, and feet were bound with yellow electrical wire; her mouth and nose were covered with silver duct tape.

The discovery ended an investigation that began Jan. 7, when Crippen, 26, was reported missing. Authorities suspect that Crosby killed Crippen in South Jersey the morning of New Year's Eve. An autopsy was pending, authorities said Wednesday.

Crosby, 28, drove to Maryland and disposed of Crippen's body the evening of Jan. 10 or morning of Jan. 11, authorities said. Sykesville is a rural community of nearly 4,500 people about 35 minutes from Baltimore.

Crosby was apprehended Jan. 12 in Bellmawr after a traffic stop. He was charged with murder, and remains jailed on $1.2 million bail.

After he was arrested, investigators began combing through 8,600 locations on Crosby's device, each marking a place he had stopped.

Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi called the stops a trail of "breadcrumbs" for investigators, who eventually narrowed the list down to 30 locations where Crosby had stopped for five minutes or more.

Detectives found the spot in Sykesville after determining from the device that he stopped there twice in two days.

Crosby, Bernardi said, left a box of partially eaten chicken and a business card with an 856 area code next to Crippen's body.

"It is a heinous crime," Bernardi said Wednesday at the courthouse in Mount Holly, shortly after revealing to Crippen's family that investigators had found her body.

Barbara Kellam, Crippen's cousin, had organized searches through storm drains and wooded areas in South Jersey for Crippen's body, at one point enlisting the help of a psychic.

On Wednesday, Kellam stood outside the courthouse with family members after hearing the news.

"It's definitely closure," she said, "because now, we can bury her."

On Monday, authorities also charged Crosby's mother, Jo, 67, of Sicklerville, with helping conceal the crime, based on text messages she allegedly exchanged with her son the day Crippen disappeared.

At the news conference, officials said finding Crippen's body the same week they arrested her husband's mother was purely coincidental. They did not reveal the details of their conversations with Jo Crosby or her son.

Authorities began investigating Crippen's disappearance after her 7-year-old daughter from a previous relationship was not picked up from school. School officials called police.

Crosby and Crippen also have a 3-month-old daughter.

Crippen's relatives said they became alarmed when they visited the couple's home and found a pile of broken glass swept into a corner. The sheets had been stripped from the bed and the shower curtain was missing, they said.

"This particular case set off red flags from the get-go," Mount Laurel Police Chief Dennis Cribben Jr. said Wednesday.

Crosby gave police conflicting accounts of when he had last seen his wife, according to an affidavit obtained by The Inquirer. He also said the couple had argued over his drug abuse and other behavior, the affidavit said.


mboren@phillynews.com

856-779-3829 @borenmc