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Trial begins for man charged after girlfriend’s death

The trial for a man charged after his girlfriend’s death started in Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Kelbley’s courtroom Wednesday morning.

Brandon J. Crowe, 38, was indicted by a Seneca County grand jury on a charge of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony.

The nine-man, three-woman jury was seated Wednesday morning.

In her opening statement, Rebeka Beresh, assistant Seneca County prosecutor, said Ashley Kramer died of a suspected drug overdose. Crowe failed to provide Kramer’s phone to law enforcement, Beresh said.

Kramer’s mother, Pam Hoffert, testified Wednesday.

She said she and Kramer, who was 26, were close. Kramer was outgoing and athletic, loved life and had a substance abuse problem for a few years, she said.

“She was (a) good student in school,” she said.

Hoffert said she thought either her daughter’s phone was thrown away somewhere or destroyed, or Crowe had it. She said she wanted photographs off the phone.

“That’s all I wanted, was her phone,” Hoffert said.

Detective Jeff Smith of Seneca County Sheriff’s Office testified about Crowe’s phone having received photos from Kramer’s phone after her death.

Kramer’s phone was found under a mattress in a room commonly used by Crowe at his father’s house in Marion, Smith said.

“Her death investigation’s still open,” he said.

During his opening statement, Crowe’s attorney, Joel Spitzer, said it was an easy case with a straight-forward fact pattern. It was impossible for Crowe to tamper with any evidence, he said.

“I believe you will find Brandon not guilty,” he said.

Crowe has been incarcerated at North Central Correctional Institution.

He was sentenced to four years in prison on a charge of involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony, according to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction.

A charge of corrupting another with drugs, a second-degree felony, was dismissed, according to Marion County Clerk of Courts records.

The trial in Kelbley’s courtroom resumes this morning.

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