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Tuesday, Jul 16 2013 09:00 PM

Advocate for victims of battered woman's syndrome dies

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    By Photo courtesy of Misty Dameron

    Glenda Sue Crosley, who became an advocate for victims of domestic violence after she was convicted of killing her husband, died of cancer.

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  2. 2 of 2

    By Photo courtesy of Misty Dameron

    Glenda Sue Crosley

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BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

Glenda Sue Crosley, who became an advocate for victims of domestic abuse after she was imprisoned for killing her husband, died Saturday. She was 69 years old.

Crosley was one of several women featured in the 2009 documentary "Sin by Silence," a film about the prison group Convicted Women Against Abuse and its efforts to raise awareness of battered woman syndrome.

At the time of her death, Crosley's supporters were working to win her freedom after a new law was enacted this year allowing a second look at cases tried prior to the 1990s, when testimony about the effects of domestic abuse often was disallowed or limited.

"AB 593 basically was crafted around her case," said "Sin By Silence" director Olivia Klaus. "It's just heartbreaking that she didn't live to see the conclusion of that process."

Crosley died Saturday, only five weeks after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, said one of her daughters, Stacy Crosley. Her mother had been serving her sentence at the California Institution for Women in Chino.

Glenda was tried twice for killing her husband, Sam Crosley, on Aug. 12, 1986. She was sentenced to 15 years to life in 1988 after she was convicted of second-degree murder for repeatedly ramming her husband with her car in the parking lot of a pizza parlor.

Neither of the two juries in the trials heard testimony about Sam Crosley's arrests, numerous police visits to the home for spousal abuse or trips to the hospital for psychiatric evaluations.

"It was really an injustice what happened to her," said John Hallum, 68, of Bakersfield, a longtime friend whose daughter grew up with the Crosley's children. "She was not a violent woman under normal circumstances. She was an extremely nice lady. It's so sad that her children will never get to see her free on the outside."

Family members and activists had unsuccessfully tried over the years to win Crosley's parole, and were in the process of preparing a writ of habeas corpus to get her case before a judge again.

Although women's advocates praised Crosley for her activism and courage in speaking publicly about her abuse, she had her detractors, including the Kern County District Attorney's office, which earlier this year said it would fight Crosley's release.

"On paper, she looks good, and I do believe in battered women's syndrome," Deputy District Attorney David Wolf told The Californian at the time. "But she has an inability to admit that she's done anything wrong and be honest."

Her daughter said that wasn't true.

"I talked to her many times about it and she regretted what happened," said Stacy Crosley, 47. "It wasn't her right to do that. She knew what she did was wrong."

At the same time, she had more than paid her debt to society and had worked hard at redemption by dedicating the rest of her life to "making sure no one else had to go through what she had endured pretty much her whole adult life," Stacy said.

Glenda Crosley counseled fellow inmates through the prison support group for battered women, and corresponded regularly with women outside prison offering encouragement and advice. She had pen pals all over the world.

"When she went to prison, she became an advocate for other women who were in her situation and took the younger girls under her wing," said daughter Angela Heinke, 50.

Misty Dameron is a Bakersfield photographer who befriended Crosley while shooting stills for the documentary.

"She was an amazing woman who was really turning her life around, turning a horrible situation into an opportunity to help others," she said.

Crosley was born in Bakersfield and married her husband in 1963. The relationship was rocky for decades, with numerous periods of separation and reconciliation.

The two were living apart on that fateful day they argued at the pizza parlor.

Prior to her arrest, Crosley had been working as a clerk at Bakersfield College.

Family members and friends described her as a stern but caring mother who loved to read.

Arrangements for services were still pending Tuesday. The family welcomes donations to domestic violence prevention groups in Crosley's honor.

She is survived by daughters Stacy Crosley, 47, of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Angela Crosley-Simon, 44, of Atascadero; and Heather Crosley-Simon, 44, of Tulsa, Okla.; as well as five grandchildren.

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