When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Cylena Crawford
Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.
Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.
On January 25, 2001, 17-year-old Cylena Crawford from Elgin, South Carolina was left to feed, care for, and discipline her brothers and sisters while her mom worked and her father was otherwise occupied. That day, however, her “discipline” meant brutally beating both her 13-year-old brother Michael and 11-year-old sister Korresha — and the latter fatally so. Korresha died the following day from bleeding to death.
Cylena was the oldest child in the Crawford family. Her mother Sylvia worked 2 jobs to support the family and her father Lawrence was a Nazarite priest who believed in Pentecostalism. All of the Crawford children were allegedly homeschooled by Lawrence, though “he often wasn’t home” and neighbors “rarely saw the children” outside their mobile home. Cylena had four siblings: Michael (13), Korresha (11), and 2 others (a boy, also 11 years old, and a girl 9 years old). Cylena reportedly “often was left in charge.” The entire responsibility of her siblings fell to her: she fed them and, “if they got out of line, would spank them.” In 2000, the year prior to the murder, social services were called to the Crawford home due to an anonymous tip about neglect, but no neglect was able to be substantiated.
On the day of the beatings, Cylena was left in charge of her siblings as was usual. After Michael and Korresha did something wrong (it remains unclear what exactly), she started disciplining them with a 1-1, 18 inch board. However, according to reports, something went wrong: “Once she started, she got carried away with the 11-year-old.” Authorities said Cylena beat Korresha “on the head, body, arms and legs,” and Michael “in the back and about the body.”
Complicating the situation was the fact that Lawrence was home this day. Not only that, but Korresha was still alive when her mother returned as well. Despite being disoriented, Korresha told her parents about the beatings at 10 pm the same day. They did nothing, however, until the following morning when Lawrence found her unconscious on her bedroom floor. Despite being rushed to the hospital, Korresha was unable to recover. Officials said she “bled to death after blood seeped through her muscle tissues for several hours.”
What role Lawrence played in the murders is unknown. The father originally told authorities he was away when Cylena beat her siblings, but he later admitted to being home at the time. Thus on February 25, 2001, he was also charged with murder. He was sentenced in 2004 to life in prison. Cylena’s murder charges remained intact and she was admitted to a mental health hospital. Her mother Sylvia was also charged with neglect in light of the fact that Korresha was allowed to bleed profusely overnight and was not taken into the hospital until she was unconscious.
View the case index here.