A statement released by Orange County District Attorney:
17-YEAR-OLD STUDENT AS SHE SLEPT ON PROM NIGHT IN 1991 *Inmate next eligible for parole in 2017
SANTA ANA –The Board of Parole Hearings (Board), California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations denied parole for five years yesterday, Sept. 19, 2012, for a man who shot and murdered a 17-year-old high school student on prom night while she was sleeping in her hotel room. Paul Crowder, 40, is currently being held at Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy. Crowder was sentenced Nov. 1, 1991, to 15 years to life in state prison and an additional four years for the personal use of a firearm.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Chrisopoulos attended the hearing to oppose Crowder’s parole and to assist the victim’s two family members who testified for the first time of the impact of their loss after learning of the matter through news reports generated by the Orange County District Attorney (OCDA).
Victim Berlyn Cosman’s sister, Morgan Kelly, who was 12 years old at the time of the murder, told the Board, “It has taken a lot of guts to be here, we are having to serve a life sentence.” Kelly stated, “I can’t believe the story he has told for 20 years, I don’t believe he is being genuine and honest.”
The victim’s mother Susan Cosman gave an emotional statement, telling the Board, “Everybody came home from the prom party but Paul Crowder didn’t let her come home.” Cosman also told the Board, “Crowder destroyed her life deliberately, I don’t want to see another family go through what we did.”
The Board took into consideration the facts of the case before denying the inmate’s parole. The Board felt the inmate was not credible during the hearing and needed more self-help programming, specifically focusing on anger management. Crowder will be eligible for his next parole hearing in 2017.
In 2010, the Board granted Crowder parole. On Nov. 12, 2010, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger invoked his authority to reverse the Board’s decision to grant Crowder parole for various reasons including lack of insight and responsibility of the murder. On March 31, 2011, the Anaheim Police Department sent a letter to the Board in opposition of Crowder’s parole. On Nov. 4, 2011, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. invoked his authority to reverse the Board’s decision to grant parole for the inmate for various reasons including the inmate’s dishonesty about the murder, failure to accept responsibility, and participating in illegal activity in prison, affirming Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2010 denial. On Oct. 19, 2011, the Board granted Crowder parole. On Jan. 26, 2012, the OCDA wrote a letter to Governor Brown informing him to deny the October www.orangecountyda.com • 401 Civic Center Drive West, Santa Ana, CA 92701
2011 parole grant for Crowder. On March 16, 2012, Governor Brown invoked his authority to reverse the Board’s decision to grant parole for the inmate.
Murder of Berlyn Cosman
On June 1, 1991, Crowder, then 19 years old, attended a prom-night party at the Sterling Crown Suites Hotel in Anaheim, where a group of students had booked three suites. Crowder was not a student but had come with Kenneth Schaffer, the boyfriend of the victim. The victim, 17-year-old Berlyn Cosman, was an excellent student and had an athletic scholarship for college basketball. Crowder arrived at the party with beer and two firearms. He quickly became intoxicated and took out one firearm, waving it around and pointing it at various people. He threatened anyone who tried to stop him and threatened to shoot one of the partygoers in the buttocks.
Later in the evening, when he could not find someone to give him a ride home, Crowder approached Cosman and her boyfriend Schaffer, who were preparing to go to sleep in an adjacent hotel room. When Cosman refused to let Crowder sleep in the room, Crowder argued with her and then left the room cursing. Early in the morning, Crowder entered Cosman’s room, took out his firearm, waved it around laughing, and shot Cosman as she slept. Crowder fled the scene and hid the firearm in some bushes outside. He then went home to take a nap. He was arrested June 1, 1991, after an investigation by the Anaheim Police Department.
On Sept. 26, 1991, a jury convicted Crowder of second degree murder and the personal use of a firearm. He was sentenced Nov. 1, 1991, to 15 years to life in state prison and an additional four years for the personal use of a firearm. If convicted of similar charges today, he would have faced a sentence of 40 years to life in prison.
Lack of Acceptance of Responsibility and Unreasonable Risk of Danger
Crowder has not taken responsibility for his crime and continues to show a lack of remorse. Crowder testified before the Board yesterday and continues to maintain that the shooting was unintentional.
In the past, Crowder stated that the gun went off accidentally when he tripped as he was entering the hotel room. Despite evidence presented during his jury trial to the contrary, Crowder denies ever arguing with the victim that night or making threatening statements about wanting to kill the victim when she refused to let him sleep in her hotel room.
Crowder poses an unreasonable risk outside of prison based on his lack of insight into his actions and psychological motivations. Had he been released, Crowder would have been exposed to situations involving stress, alcohol, and instability which are the factors that led him to commit the murder and, therefore, he will not be released.