Kensington man to be tried for murder in shooting of aunt

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The perfect crime it wasn’t.

Even as 57-year-old Virginia Cruttenden lay dying of a gunshot wound to the head in her Port Richmond rowhouse, her neighbor’s video surveillance camera recorded her nephew and his girlfriend going in and out with items.

Four days later, in video-recorded statements to homicide detectives, Andrew Cruttenden, 27, admitted shooting his aunt, and his girlfriend Michelle Waclawski, 36, said she helped him loot the house.

That was enough for Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Karen Y. Simmons, who on Tuesday ordered Cruttenden to stand trial for murder, robbery and burglary in his aunt’s death and Waclawski on conspiracy, criminal trespass and theft charges.

On the video, Cruttenden tells detectives his aunt offered him a cigarette and Snapple after he arrived early on Feb. 24 at the house in the 3200 block of Mercer Street.

Cruttenden, balling himself into a chair in the interrogation room video, says he asked his aunt for money and she said no.

“She said she didn’t have any money,” Cruttenden tells detectives. “I shot her.”

Waclawski, in her video-recorded statement, said she had nothing to do with Virginia Cruttenden’s slaying.

“I didn’t see anything,” Waclawski tells detectives. “I did what I was supposed to: bring out whatever Andrew told me to carry out.”

Pressed by Detective Edward Tolliver, Waclawski acknowledges that she saw Virginia Cruttenden on the floor covered with a blanket.

“She was still breathing,” Waclawski says.

Assistant District Attorneys Chesley Lightsey and Laurie Moore presented almost eight minutes of excerpts from the neighbor’s video security system.

Cruttenden, who police said used to live with his aunt, is seen entering his aunt’s house at 6:28 a.m. on Feb. 24 and leaving eight minutes later.

At 9:16 a.m., the video again shows Cruttenden leaving and this time he pulls his knit hat down near his eyes as if trying to hide his face.

At 9:34 a.m., Waclawski arrives alone and enters the house and at 9:44 a.m. they both leave. Waclawski is now carrying several bags filled with items and Cruttenden is carrying what appears to be a portable television.

Finally, at 10 a.m., the video shows Waclawski alone walk up the steps to the front door, pause as if she’s checking the lock, and then leave. She bends down, picks up Virginia Cruttenden’s newspaper, and tosses it on the porch.

The couple was arrested Feb. 28 at Waclawski’s house in Kensington.

Cruttenden’s attorney, F. Michael Medway, tried unsuccessfully to prevent a half-dozen of Virginia Cruttenden’s relatives from watching the preliminary hearing. Medway argued that they might be participants in what he called a family get-together that “may show a motive for why this murder occurred.”

Lightsey, however, argued that evidence of a possible motive was not necessary for the judge to decide whether to hold Cruttenden for trial on murder.

Waclawski’s attorney, Jonathan Strange, argued that her charges should be reduced to misdemeanors. He called her a minor participant and asked Simmons to reduce her bail from the current $50,000.

Simmons, however, cited Waclawski’s arrest while on probation for another burglary and her failure to appear at an earlier court hearing.

Simmons raised Waclawski’s bail to $100,000 and called the $50,000 bail “woefully inappropriate.”

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