Man Accused of Staging Murder-Suicide of Estranged Wife in Double Homicide

This week, public records revealed the chilling details of a double homicide in Wichita, Kansas. A man, identified as Charles “Chuck” Crawford, is accused of killing his estranged wife, Vanessa A. Crawford, and her new boyfriend, Donald J. Eckert, in her home. The motive behind the crime, according to the affidavit, was Crawford’s resentment towards his wife’s new relationship. He then allegedly manipulated the crime scene to make it appear as if Eckert was the perpetrator.

The Wichita police responded to a distress call on the morning of July 25, where they discovered the bodies of Vanessa Crawford and Eckert. Vanessa, a 50-year-old daycare owner, was found on the floor with a gunshot wound to her torso. Eckert, 58, was found on a living room couch, a gunshot wound to his right temple, and a handgun in his grasp. The police found four shell casings in the living room, which were later linked to the gun held by Eckert.

The affidavit revealed that the gun was purchased by Charles Crawford. Investigators found traces of blood on Eckert’s right elbow and inside his hands, suggesting it was transferred from another person. The gun Eckert was holding was jammed, leading investigators to believe that Charles Crawford may have staged the scene to resemble a murder-suicide.

A 22-year-old woman, who was dropping off her child at the daycare run from the home, found the front door locked, which was unusual. Peering through the front window, she saw the bodies of Vanessa Crawford and Eckert. She immediately contacted a friend of Vanessa’s, who upon confirming the horrific scene, called 911.

A friend of Vanessa Crawford told investigators that she had visited Vanessa’s home the previous night. She noted that Vanessa and Eckert were wearing the same clothes when they were found dead. The friend also revealed that Vanessa was in the process of divorcing Charles, who was upset about her new relationship. Charles had even threatened to kill Eckert, according to the friend.

License plate readers placed Charles Crawford’s pickup truck in the vicinity of the crime scene shortly before midnight on July 24. After the bodies were discovered, Charles Crawford’s daughter provided police with information from a tracking app, Life360, which showed her father’s phone at his trailer from the evening of July 24 to the morning of July 25. This led officers to suspect that he left his phone behind when he went to his estranged wife’s home.

On the day of the homicide, deputies found Charles Crawford near the crime scene, sitting against a fence with a gun in his hand. He confessed to the officers that he had visited his wife’s home the previous night and found her with Eckert in the bedroom. He claimed that a struggle ensued, during which he shot both Vanessa and Eckert. After a two-hour negotiation, officers managed to disarm Crawford and take him into custody. He is currently facing two counts of first-degree murder.

A subsequent search of Crawford’s trailer revealed blood-stained clothes. Vanessa Crawford, according to her obituary, had worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 20 years and was a cherished childcare provider in her community.