CLEVELAND - On leave from the violence he had survived in the war in Iraq, a young Marine was so wary of crime on the streets of his own home town that he carried only $8 to avoid becoming a robbery target.
Despite his caution, Lance Cpl. Robert Crutchfield, 21, was shot point-blank in the neck during a robbery at a bus stop. Feeding and breathing tubes kept him alive 4 1/2 months, until he died of an infection on May 18.
Two men have been charged in the attack, and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason said Friday the case was under review to decide whether to seek the death penalty.
"It is an awful story," said Alberta Holt, the young Marine's aunt and his legal guardian when he was a teenager determined to flee a troubled Cleveland school for safer surroundings in the suburbs.
Crutchfield was attacked on Jan. 5 while he and his girlfriend were waiting for a bus. He had heeded the warnings of commanders that a Marine on leave might be seen as a prime robbery target with a pocketful of money, so he only carried $8, his military ID card and a bank card.
"They took it, turned his pockets inside out, took what he had and told him since he was a Marine and didn't have any money he didn't deserve to live. They put the gun to his neck and shot him," Holt told The Associated Press.
The two men charged in the attack were identified as Ean Farrow, 19, and Thomas Ray III, 20, both of Cleveland. Their attorneys did not respond to The Associated Press' requests for comment.
Crutchfield knew he was returning to Iraq for another tour of duty, but had hesitated to tell his family until he was nearing the end of his 30-day leave.
He apparently had a troubled family. Holt wouldn't discuss it except to say "his mom and dad didn't raise him, just his grandmother and me." He didn't smoke or drink, she said.
He had attended Cleveland's inner-city East High School, but asked that he be allowed to live with his aunt and grandmother and attend suburban Bedford High School for his final two years.
"He saw his school was in turmoil and asked to get out," Holt said.
Bedford High teachers recalled Crutchfield's smile, his pride in his appearance, his determination to join the Marine Corps after graduation in 2005 and his aspiration to become an architect.
"He was friendly and kind and willing to help out in any way that he could," counselor Yvonne Sims said in an e-mail.
Connie LaNasa, who works in the school office, said Crutchfield was a well-behaved student and went about his school work with little notice.
"He lived out what he wanted to do and that is to be a Marine," LaNasa said.
Faculty members remembered Crutchfield as a top student in the computer design program, an office assistant and participant in the prom fashion show.
After his long hospitalization, an infection broke out a week before he died. "He said it felt like he was getting hit by lightning," Holt said.
When Crutchfield's body was laid out Tuesday in the Sacrificial Missionary Baptist Church, his white military dress hat was tugged down close to his eyes to conceal the skull flap that had been kept open to relieve swelling in his brain.
Marines provided an honor guard at his funeral service and carried the casket to his grave at the Western Reserve National Cemetery near Akron.
He was buried there on the same day as a Vietnam veteran, two veterans from World War II and three from Korea.
These fucks deserve to die by a shotgun blast to the head!