A Southeast Kansas judge on Friday re-sentenced Crystal D. Galloway, convicted of murdering a Dennis man in 2015, to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 50 years.
Labette County District Court Judge Steve Stockard issued the ruling after a two-hour hearing via Zoom in the Cherokee County murder case. Galloway was the only witness in the hearing, denying that she participated in the murder of Robin Fought, 59, of Dennis. Fought’s sister read a statement before the sentence was announced. Cherokee County Attorney Nathan Coleman prosecuted the case and attorney Robert Myers defended Galloway.
In November 2014, the state of Kansas assumed custody of Galloway’s children. Galloway was not permitted to have unsupervised visits with her oldest daughter, Alyssa C. Bird, or Galloway’s boyfriend, Dakota Cunningham. Galloway maintained contact with both. Fought employed Cunningham and learned about the improper contact and discussed his concerns with Galloway’s state caseworker on May 8 and May 12, 2015, according to a case summary in the Kansas Supreme Court appeal in 2020 that led to Galloway’s re-sentencing.
Fought told the caseworker that he was worried Galloway was planning on kidnapping her children and leaving the state. On May 15, 2015, a water worker in rural Cherokee County came across a burning pickup truck in a field. Emergency responders extinguished the fire and discovered Fought lying face down on the ground near the back of the truck. Fought had blood under his body. On Fought’s back was a gas can with torn phone book pages stuffed into the spout. His body was partially burned, and he had suffered multiple stab wounds (his throat was slit twice and he was stabbed in the eye and chest). Near the truck and Fought’s body were a knife and a sledgehammer with blood stains on them, the case summary said.
That evening, Galloway called a friend, Glenda Stevens, and told her that a lender was seeking to repossess her van. She asked Stevens to follow her and Cunningham to hide the van. They abandoned the van in Oklahoma, and Stevens gave Galloway and Cunningham a ride to a barn, where the two set up camp. Along the way, they told Stevens that Cunningham had stabbed Fought because Fought pulled a knife on him, the case summary said.
After dropping the two off at the barn, Stevens called the police and told them about the conversation. She gave the police Galloway’s cellphone, which Galloway had left in Stevens’ car for recharging. The phone contained photographs and messages relating to the crime and indicated that Galloway anticipated killing someone. On May 17, 2015, Cherokee County issued a warrant for Galloway’s arrest for second-degree murder. Police officers found Galloway and Cunningham camping in the barn and arrested them the same morning. They took them back to Cherokee County and interrogated them separately. Galloway denied having anything to do with murder and told investigators that Cunningham said he killed Fought in self-defense and that her participation was limited to providing the means for him to escape. Galloway later told a niece that Fought was killed because he turned in Alyssa Bird for visiting Galloway and because he was not paying Galloway for work she was doing for him, the case summary said.
Police examined Galloway’s and Bird’s phones. At 8:40 a.m. May 15, 2015, Galloway had sent Bird a text reading: “hey going to get me a snitch (smile emoji) yay.” Bird replied: “Be careful clean your tracks and phone.” On both phones was a photograph of a list of items: “different tags and car, food, water, clothes, blankets, coats, weapons, scanner for police, no phones, money, diapers and wipes, cigarettes, masks, gloves, boots, lock pick, learn schedules, learn entrances and exits to houses, tents, matches, flashlights, batteries, extra gas, maps, survival books.” The list was created on Galloway’s phone on May 12, 2015, the case summary said.
Investigators also found pictures on Galloway’s phone of the field where Fought’s body was found and a nearby house. The picture of the house was taken about an hour before the fire was discovered. Another picture showed Fought’s body with stab wounds but not yet in the position where it was found and it had not been burned. On Bird’s phone was a picture of a note from Galloway’s niece addressed to “my favorite Aunt”; the note contained a poem that ended: “Don’t forget to murder rob ☺ YEA.”
Police recovered DNA evidence showing that Galloway’s blood was on the handle of the knife used to kill Fought. Her blood also was on the gas can and on the twisted and partially burned paper in the gas can.
A jury found Galloway guilty on all three charges on Sept. 28, 2016, first-degree murder, arson and interfering with a law officer. Former Judge Jeffry L. Jack sentenced her to life in prison with no parole until she’s served 50 years. Galloway, now 42, will be parole eligible on the original sentence in May 2065. Bird, now 21, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. She received 65 months in prison and will be parole eligible in July 2022. Cunningham, now 24, pleaded to second-degree murder and received 13 years in prison.
Galloway appealed her convictions and sentence. The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed her convictions but ordered her re-sentenced. The main reason for the re-sentencing order is that Judge Jack refused to consider Galloway’s lack of criminal history as a mitigating factor in her sentence, even though it may not have changed her sentence.
On Friday, Myers questioned Galloway to support his request for a shorter sentence, life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years.
Galloway testified that she was pregnant at the time of the murder and her child was born on Dec. 4, 2015, while she was in custody. She testified that the pregnancy made her fatigued, nauseated and she could not think straight. She also claimed to have gestational diabetes at the time. She claimed to be under emotional duress the day of the murder from her children having been taken in November 2014. She testified, however, that she was working her case plan in the child in need of care case in Labette County and got a new house and was furnishing it for when they returned to her.
She testified that Dakota Cunningham killed Fought and she was only at the scene of the murder.
“I was at the scene of the crime. I didn’t stab the man. I didn’t burn the truck. I didn’t do any of that,” she testified.
She left the crime scene with Cunningham because she feared what he would do to her and he had her phone. She claimed that he had her phone for two days before the murder and the texts to her daughter discussing getting the “snitch” were his.
However, Cunningham left May 15, 2015, with Fought and the cellphone remained with Galloway, according to her testimony during cross examination. She also testified that Cunningham called her cellphone from Fought’s cellphone saying he needed a ride because he and Fought were arguing. They were arguing when she got there and Cunningham pulled a knife. She cut her finger when trying to grab the knife, she testified.
Coleman read snippets of the trial transcript to impeach Galloway’s testimony. She testified Friday that she met Fought and Cunningham at the scene. Her trial testimony was that she arrived at the scene first and they arrived after. He also pointed out where her DNA was found: the murder weapon, the gas can, the twisted paper in the gas can used as a wick to start the fire and on the back of Fought’s truck. He also noted that her cellphone contained a photograph of the trees and farmhouse before Cunningham and Fought arrived.
He noted that she offered no evidence of her gestational diabetes at the time and that she’d had supervised visits with her children while the child in need of care case was pending. She also was to refrain from contact with Cunningham and continued that relationship despite the order.
Coleman noted that she provided a detailed statement to law enforcement after her arrest that didn’t seem impacted by the same factors she now alleged created her impaired judgment and functioning during the crime.
After testimony, Myers argued for a shorter prison term for Galloway based on her testimony on her impaired judgment, distress, medical issues and lack of criminal history.
Coleman agreed that Galloway’s lack of criminal history was a mitigating factor and should be considered. He argued that Galloway’s inconsistent statements between her trial testimony, other evidence and her statements Friday made her testimony not credible, and she didn’t offer evidence to support her claims. Galloway neglected to offer substantial and compelling reasons to support a shorter prison term, he argued. He said the evidence supports she brutally murdered Fought.
Camilla Veatch, Fought’s sister, read a statement to Stockard to consider before pronouncing sentence. She said Fought was a wonderful brother, son and uncle. He knew no stranger. May 15, 2015, changed the family forever.
“Right now, it’s hard to get the images of what Crystal Galloway did to Robin out of my mind. I hope, in time, I will be able to remember the good times I had with my brother without having to remember those images,” Veatch said.
She said Fought’s father died before he could hear the trial verdict and his mother was not able to attend the proceedings because of health. She said 25 years in prison before parole eligibility is not enough for her brother’s brutal murder. Besides, Galloway has not showed remorse.
Galloway had a chance to speak again before she was sentenced. She repeated that she did not commit the crime and that Cunningham did. She also noted that he received only 13 years in prison and she got 50. “That’s not right.”
Stockard reviewed the defense’s reasons to support a shorter prison term. He called Galloway’s inconsistent testimony and self-serving statements unreliable and not credible on most of the mitigating factors. There was a difference in prison terms between Cunningham and Galloway. But Cunningham took a plea to a lesser charge and she took her chances at trial.
The only mitigating factor he found credible was Galloway’s lack of criminal history.
“That alone, given the heinous, brutal and gruesome murder made by someone who today appears to me to be remorseless does not rise to the level of a substantial and compelling reason. For those reasons, the motion for durational departure is denied,” Stockard said.
He sentenced Galloway to life in prison on the murder with no parole until she served 50 years. He also sentenced her to 22 additional months on the arson and interference charges.