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By Casey Christie / Californian File Photo
By Lois Henry
Glenda Crosley killed her husband. Of that, there's no doubt.
She smashed him between the grill of her car and the trunk of his in a parking lot at Ming Avenue and Real Road on a hot August night in 1986.
During Crosley's two notorious trials, the community learned how much abuse she suffered at the hands of Sam, her husband of 24 years.
Testimony by her three daughters, a family friend and even Sam Crosley's own mother was chilling.
They all believed Glenda, not Sam, would wind up dead.
The violence was constant.
"It wasn't just once a week," said daughter Stacy Crosley, now 43. "It was every single day."
And it wasn't just Glenda.
"The first time I remember him hitting me, I was probably 6 years old," Stacy told me. Her sisters suffered the same way.
He hit with hands and fists and threatened his family with anything handy -- golf clubs, tire irons, broom sticks.
And, yeah, the cops were called numerous times.
"It was the 1970s and '80s," Stacy said. "If no one hit anyone in front of the cops, they didn't make any arrests. They just got things settled and left."
Stacy remembered her mother trying to leave several times and her dad coming into the apartment, ransacking rooms and even taking the pink slip to Glenda's car to maintain some kind -- any kind -- of control.
The Crosley's oldest daughter left as soon as she could. Stacy, the middle child, got into drugs, ran away and raised hell. The youngest was in her senior year of high school the night of their father's death.
Stacy, with a grown son of her own now and a lifetime of experience, still blames herself for the death.
"When I was 11 or 12, I remember plotting ways to kill my dad," she says matter of factly. "If I'd succeeded, this never would have happened."
Then when she was 17 and about to be released from a group home in Fresno, a judge said she couldn't go home unless both parents were living together.
Glenda had again left Sam and was trying to make it on her own, but went back to bring Stacy home.
"In a way, it was my fault."
Glenda was found guilty in 1988 of second-degree murder.
Despite new laws that allow courts to consider a woman's previous abuse in such cases, Glenda remains in prison.
The irony is that Glenda falls through the cracks because she was allowed to present a "battered wife syndrome" defense, the first time it was ever used in a California courtroom.
But it didn't sway the jury.
Glenda and Sam were separated at the time. They had both gone to a church-sponsored singles gathering that night and afterward to a pizza parlor. Sam told people she was following him and others testified she wasn't invited to the pizza party.
In the parking lot, Sam leaned into Glenda's car, they had words and witnesses say she rammed him from behind as he was walking away. He got up as she drove away through the lot.
He went to the back of his car and opened the trunk. Glenda came back through the lot, smashed into him and drove away until her car broke down.
"It took me a lot of years to come to grips with everything," Stacy said. Particularly how her past reached into her future.
"I wasn't the victim" in later years, she said. "I was the abuser."
She was so unnerved by her own actions when she hit her first husband -- her son's father -- she left, even giving up custody of her son.
"I knew the cycle was passed down and I didn't want to run the risk of abusing my son," she said.
She kept in constant contact with her son, now 18 and now living with her in Bakersfield.
She hasn't communicated much with her mom over the years, but believes she's more than paid for her crime.
"She was afraid that night; I know that in my heart," Stacy said. "She was confused, probably just trying to get out of the parking lot.
"He opened his trunk. That's where he kept the tire iron, the weapons he threatened her with.
"She didn't intentionally go after him."
Glenda's story is chronicled in the documentary "Sin by Silence," to be screened today at the domestic violence conference from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hodel's. Cost is $35