On the evening of Sept. 25, 1983, Leslie English was in her little girl pajamas, sleeping in her little girl bed, dreaming little girl dreams.
Then the boogey man came.
Leslie was only 2 when she was abducted, raped, strangled and left under a tree, partially covered with pine straw and leaves. Ants had marched across her body and done so much damage that police at first thought that she had been tied up and that the bites were rope burns.
Leslie had green eyes, blond hair and weighed 31 pounds. The boogey man, it turned out, was her uncle, Eddie Albert Crawford.
Leslie's mamma, Eddie's sister-in-law, wouldn't have sex with him so he got back at her. He crept into the house and into the bedroom where Leslie was sleeping in pink flannel pajamas the kind that have the feet in them. He raped, strangled and killed her, put her in his car and took her to what was then a rural area on Futral Road in Spalding County. Her little body was found the next day around 10 a.m. Her granddaddy, Leonard, who worked for the county, was just behind the group of searchers who found her. They had to circle him and muscle him away from grabbing her up the crime scene had to be protected. The boogey man was still out there.
It took two trials to convict Eddie and it has taken 21 years to bring the case to a true conclusion. It still haunts the cops who worked the case. Talk to any of them today and they can tell you about the events of that day a Monday down to the minute details. Leonard, who carried on but was never really the same, took the sight of his dead granddaughter to his grave.
But there is another side to this story there always is.
Several years ago my husband and I had some friends over and the subject of my work came up. At the time I was a cops and courts reporter in another county and was working on a story about the men on death row. I began to spit and spatter about my stance on the death penalty and how Eddie Crawford deserved to die. Just as soon as the words "Eddie Crawford" came out of my mouth I froze. I looked up and into the eyes of Eddie's brother, our friend. All those years and the subject had never come up I never had any reason to connect the last name. What would he or his wife say, "Hi, my brother's on death row, nice to meet you"?
So I was torn Monday night. I believe Eddie deserved to die because I truly, truly feel in my heart of hearts that he is guilty. I hoped that as he walked through the passageway from his holding cell to the death chamber he looked up through the sky light one last time and was able to admit what he did. On the other hand, I know what kind of night my friends had, that they are truly decent people, how this has hurt them and how sorry they are that this had to happen.
And then there's little Leslie. Executing Eddie isn't going to bring her back and it isn't going to make the vision of her lying dead under that tree ever go away. For some of us she will forever be that little green-eyed girl in her little girl pajamas, sleeping in her little girl bed, dreaming little girl dreams.
Sweet dreams now because the boogey man is gone.
Tamara Boatwright is the managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 272.