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Haunted York County: A Brief History of Crawford Road
By Nancy E. Sheppard

YCCR imageThe isolated 3.6 mile stretch through a patch of woods in York County has been the stuff of urban legends and ghost hunting. Local teens recall driving down the roadway under the cover of night to the stone, graffiti- covered bridge, hoping for a thrill of seeing otherworldly apparitions take corporal form before their eyes. With myths of nefarious KKK lynchings and other darkened deeds taking place at that same bridge, it seems to be a magnet for superstition and late-night supernatural seekers.

The truth is, many of these urban legends have very little evidence to support them. Despite the gross history the south has with racism and hate crimes, there isn’t anything clear to support the allegation that the Ku Klux Klan ever conducted meetings at the bridge nor committed horrific atrocities at the site. That being said, until the second half of the 20th century, these were deeds were not always readily included in police blotters nor newspapers. Articles from local newspapers from that era referenced Crawford Road (also called Helen Crawford Road and Crafford Road) usually have to do with a stray robbery or some sort of land transaction.

In fact, it wasn’t until the last decade of the 20th century that there murders reported along the road. On February 6, 1990, James "Jimmy” Giles was found murdered with a single gunshot wound and his wrists and legs bound. Juanito Edwards was later convicted of Mr. Giles’ murder and sentenced to two life sentences plus 22 years. There is belief that Edwards was connected to the disappearance of Newport News resident, Tanya Lane, in 1989, though he was never tried or convicted.

In 1996, the body of Eric Nesbitt, who was stationed at Langley Air Force Base, was found along Crawford Road, shot 8 times. Daryl Atkins and William Jones were later convicted of robbing Mr. Nesbitt and murdering him.

Shawn Demonta Mabry’s body was found in March 2000 in the woods near Crawford Road. He was beaten to death and an iron stake still marks the spot where his body was found. Chad O’Handley and Jon M. Wolford were convicted of Mabry’s murder.

Lastly, 19-yearold Portsmouth resident, Austin Baxley, was found murdered on July 20, 2016. Julian Ramos was convicted in York County for Baxley’s murder.

With Crawford Road’s relatively remote location in the ever-developing landscape of York County, it provided more clandestine cover for crimes to be carried out with little chance of witnesses stumbling upon the deeds. And while it has been the scene of some of the darker moments in recent York County history, there is no substantial evidence to prove that it was ever anything more than a rural stretch of road. That being said, the allure for locals and ghost enthusiasts alike will never wain from this most darkened corner of the county.

For more notorious stories of Hampton Roads’ vibrant history, check out Nancy E. Sheppard’s new book, Hampton Roads Murder and Mayhem, due for release in local book retailers and online on October 8, 2018!


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