The wheels of justice may be grinding to a stop – or coasting to the end of the road depending on your point of view – in the case of Paul Crowder, the local man who was a teen when he shot and killed 17-year-old Crescenta Valley High School senior Berlyn Cosman at an unsupervised post-prom hotel party in 1991.
For those unfamiliar, according to newspaper reports and court documents, Crowder – who hadn’t attended the prom but went to the after prom party – had been drinking and was waving around a gun that he brought to the party. He claims that it was an accident, that he tripped and the gun went off. However, the jury decided otherwise and he was convicted of second-degree murder, serving a 15 years-to-life term. Since November 1991 he has been in prison. Two weeks ago at a hearing he was found suitable for parole. Gov. Jerry Brown has 150 days to approve or deny his parole.
The horrific loss – whether intentional or accidental – scarred the Crescenta Valley community. But our community is not one that crawls into a corner in defeat when confronted with loss.
The death of Berlyn infused us with a steely resolve to find a way to entice our kids to stay close to home after prom, to create an after-prom event that would be a natural draw for our seniors – most of whom have few choices on what to do after the last song plays.
A group of dedicated teachers, parents and other civic leaders created Prom Plus.
Since 1993, Prom Plus has hosted an after prom event that includes a full casino, mechanical bull, a rock climbing wall plus so much more. It has evolved over the years, and was originally held at Clark before it became a noted magnet high school and was just an empty campus. Prom Plus moved to the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA more than 10 years ago and the Y is now considered a partner in the yearly event.
I am proud to say that I am the president of Prom Plus and, as such, have been asked to comment on Crowder’s possible parole.
I have not heard all the evidence. I did not know Crowder. I do not know how he has behaved while imprisoned. I am not qualified to offer an opinion. That’s for the justice system.
I do know that the collateral damage of his action has been devastating. Neither the Crowder nor the Cosman families will ever be the same. In fact, several years ago, a member of the Crowder family called me at work. He was upset because it was drawing near to prom time again and stories were being done in the newspapers about Prom Plus and what the impetus was for the event. Obviously, Berlyn’s murder was brought up.
The family member said that every year when the newspapers printed the story of Prom Plus it was painful for his family and made it difficult for them. I told him that the thrust of the stories was not the murder, but the aftermath. I reminded him that I never referred to Crowder and told him frankly that I didn’t even recognize the name when he introduced himself on the telephone.
That’s because the legacy of Berlyn is not who killed her, but those who may have been saved because of her, because of the dedication prompted by her death to create Prom Plus.
If I had to choose which name to remember – Paul Crowder or Berlyn Cosman – I choose to remember Berlyn.