The families of those victimized and suspected of having been victimized by James Lee Crummel didn't lose any sleep upon learning the serial child molester and killer had hung himself in his cell on California's death row. But onetime Newport Beach resident Crummel's suicide caused at least one family to lose a chance at something that has eluded them: closure.
Nine-year-old Jack “J.D.” Phillips was last seen walking home from the Aspen Glen Picnic Area in Big Bear Lake on Aug. 6, 1995. Crummel, who lived near the boy at the time, has long been suspected of having abducted and killed the youth.
But it was the abduction and murder of 13-year-old James Wilfred Trotter of Costa Mesa that sent Crummel to San Quentin's death row in 2004. Trotter went missing in 1979.
Crummel, 68, was found hanging his cell May 26.
James Lee Crummel, Molester Who Murdered Costa Mesa Boy, Hangs Himself on Death Row
“It would have been nice to know where my son was,
but I'm glad [Crummel's] dead,” Jack Phillips, the father of “J.D.” now living in Virginia, reportedly told the Redlands Daily Facts. “I'm glad he's gone. There can never be any
closure. Nothing would've brought my son back.”
It's a feeling that may be shared by families in Anaheim Hills and Pima
County, Arizona. Crummel is suspected of having abducted and killed boys from those communities as well.
At one point, Crummel offered to confess to killing young Phillips if it would spare him a death sentence in the Trotter case, which was prosecuted in Riverside County because the Costa Mesa boy's remains were found near Ortega Highway there.
That county's district attorney instead considered a separate prosecution based on circumstantial evidence that included a supposed Crummel confession to a cell mate. But Riverside County's DA ultimately declined to prosecute.
One theory is Crummel disposed of Phillips' body in the ocean, with the help of his Newport Beach roommate, psychiatrist Burnell Forgey. The late Forgery used to take then-convicted,
multiple-child molester Crummel with him to youth group homes. Forgery
later lost his medical license after being convicted in Orange County
Superior Court in 1999 on five felony counts of orally copulating a person under
Riverside County prosecutor Denise Trager-Dvorak, who won the conviction in the Trotter case, tells the Facts' Joe Nelson, that Forgery was suspected of helping Crummel get rid of Phillips' body because the psychiatrist owned a boat, “but we couldn't prove it.”
There's lack of closure to go around.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.