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‘Put a bullet in Donald’s head’: Man fatally shot estranged wife, her new boyfriend, then staged the scene because he was upset she was dating, affidavit says

Vanessa and Charles Crawford

Authorities in Wichita, Kansas, say Charles “Chuck” Crawford shot and killed his estranged wife Vanessa Crawford and her boyfriend Donald Eckert (not pictured) on July 25. (Vanessa Crawford picture via her obituary, Charles Crawford from the Sedgwick County Jail)

An affidavit publicly released Tuesday details how a man shot his estranged wife, a beloved day care owner, and her new boyfriend to death in her home in Wichita, Kansas, because he was upset she was dating a new man and then staged the scene to make it look like the new boyfriend was the killer.

Wichita police were called to a home around 7:30 a.m. on July 25, where they found Vanessa A. Crawford and Donald J. Eckert dead from gunshot wounds. Crawford, 50, was found facedown on the floor with a gunshot wound to the torso, while Eckert, 58, was on a couch in the living room with a gunshot wound to the right temple and holding a handgun, according to a probable cause arrest affidavit reviewed by Law&Crime. Officers found four shell casings in the living room which were later determined to be fired from the gun Eckert was holding.

The affidavit said the gun was purchased by Crawford’s estranged husband Charles “Chuck” Crawford. Detectives found a small amount of blood on Eckert’s right elbow and smeared on the inside of his hands, which was likely transferred from someone else. The gun Eckert was holding was jammed, according to the affidavit. While the affidavit suggests Charles Crawford staged the scene to make it look like a murder-suicide, it does not explicitly say so.

A 22-year-old woman later told police she was dropping off her child at the home, which doubled as a day care. She said the front door is normally unlocked but this time was locked. The witness looked through the front window and could see Vanessa Crawford and Eckert shot to death. She called a friend of Vanessa Crawford, who came over and called 911 after seeing the bodies.

More on Law&Crime: Estranged husband accused of murdering young mom found dead in wooded area days after suspicious ‘me time’ text

The friend told detectives she had been at Vanessa Crawford’s home at about 11 p.m. the night before while running errands. Vanessa Crawford and Eckert were wearing the same clothes from the last time she saw them, the affidavit said. She said Vanessa Crawford was going through a divorce of her husband and he was upset his soon-to-be ex-wife was already dating, the affidavit said.

She said Charles Crawford had recently called her and told her that he was “going to put a bullet in Donald’s head,” according to the affidavit. The friend also said Vanessa Crawford and Eckert seemed to be getting along fine when she saw them and did not know of any issues between the two of them in the past and if there were, Vanessa Crawford would have told her.

License plate readers showed Charles Crawford’s pickup truck was in the area shortly before midnight on July 24, the affidavit said.

After the bodies were found, Charles Crawford’s daughter told detectives that she had an app called Life360 that could track her father’s phone in real-time and show the last seven days of movement. She told officers Charles Crawford’s phone was located at his trailer in Lake Afton from 9:35 p.m. July 24 to 6 a.m. on July 25. Officers suspect he left his phone behind when he drove to his estranged wife’s home.

Deputies checking the scene of the homicide on July 25 observed Charles Crawford’s vehicle nearby. As they approached the truck, officers located Charles Crawford nearby sitting against a fence with a gun in his hand, at times holding it against his head, the affidavit said. He told the officer he was having problems with his wife and he went over to her home to talk the night before around 1 a.m. When he went inside he found his estranged wife and Eckert in the bedroom.

“He told the officer he had his gun with him and at one point he pulled Vanessa’s hair and she grabbed his arm causing the gun to go off and shoot Vanessa. He said the boyfriend started to get up and he shot the boyfriend,” the affidavit said.

Charles Crawford then told the officer he shot Eckert twice.

After two hours of negotiation, officers were able to get Crawford to drop the gun and he was taken into custody. He’s in jail facing two counts of first-degree murder.

Detectives later searched his trailer and found bloody clothes, the affidavit said.

According to her obituary, Vanessa Crawford worked at the U.S. Postal Service for 20 years. She also was a “beloved child care provider” in her neighborhood for several years.

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