After serving 14 years of a life sentence, Billy Crowder might be getting closer to starting a new life outside prison walls.
Crowder gained notoriety during his 1998 murder trial in Long County Superior Court. He, family members and his friend, Jason Jordan, stood accused of a killing Crowder’s grandfather, Thurman Martin.
In July 1997, Crowder was arrested and charged with murder and armed robbery after police found Martin’s body wrapped in a plastic shower curtain and buried under a freshly planted strip of tomato plants in his backyard. The case became to be known as the “Tomato Patch Murder.”
After his grandfather’s death, Crowder said he took $600 out of Martin’s wallet to pay the family’s rent and utilities. He gave Jordan $20. Taking the money led to the armed-robbery charges.
The jury found Crowder guilty of involuntary manslaughter and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and he was sentenced to five years for each charge. The jury also found him guilty of armed robbery, and the judge sentenced Crowder to life for the offense.
Crowder became eligible for parole review in April 2012, and his file was turned over to the review board.
Crowder’s wife, Tonia Crowder, said she received word from the Georgia State Pardon and Parole Board on Tuesday — and later directly from Crowder — that a decision was reached and parole would be granted.
However, Georgia State Board of Pardon and Parole Public Affairs Director Steve Hayes said Thursday that he could not confirm whether parole was granted and could not comment further on the matter at this time.
The Coastal Courier will provide updates as more information becomes available.