- Associated Press - Friday, May 13, 2016

KITTANNING, Pa. (AP) - An inmate who escaped from jail while behind bars for a parole violation has been convicted of murder for killing an acquaintance while on the run and then stealing her boyfriend’s truck.

An Armstrong County jury took less than two hours Thursday to convict Robert Crissman Jr. on charges including first- and second-degree murder in the death of 55-year-old Tammy Long. Both charges carry a mandatory life sentence without parole.

“Instead of murdering her, he could have just stole the truck and let that be that,” Long’s brother, Tim Mohney, said after the verdict. “We have hard feelings. When somebody in our family gets hurt, you hurt one, you hurt us all.”

Crissman, 39, was jailed for violating his parole on a previous drug conviction when he escaped from the county jail on July 30 while working as an inmate trustee. In that role, he was allowed outside so he could take food trays from a vendor’s truck to inmates and simply ran away from the jail.

Dual investigations by the district attorney and a security contractor determined Crissman shouldn’t have been given such a job because he had reported using heroin shortly before his arrest days before and was still in withdrawal. The warden has since resigned and reforms have been enacted, including an emergency alert system and a siren meant to warn nearby residents - like Long - in the event of future escapes. Long’s children are also suing the county, saying lax jail security led to her death.

Long and her boyfriend, Terry Slagle, were casual friends of Crissman and didn’t know that he had been in jail - or that there had been an escape.

Crissman was captured the morning after his escape after a high-speed chase.

Defense attorney Charles Pascal said he might appeal and doesn’t believe prosecutors conclusively proved Crissman killed Long.

But District Attorney Scott Andreassi noted a shoelace like the one missing from Crissman’s jail-issued shoes was used to strangle Long and a shirt with his DNA and her blood on it was found in her home. Long’s head was bleeding from being hit with a toilet tank lid, police testified.

“You can’t explain away the fact that your shirt is at the scene with the victim’s blood on it,” Andreassi said.

Jury foreman David Jackson told reporters that the panel believed Crissman went to Long and Slagle’s home intending to get a ride. But after Slagle went to work that morning, something happened that caused Crissman to “snap” - possibly the fact that Crissman’s name was being broadcast on TV about the escape, Jackson said.

Crissman hadn’t yet had his parole violation hearing when he escaped. A judge could have freed him and strengthened his parole release terms or resentenced him to time in prison.

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