He’s still in that green house

Telegram finds Leo Crockwell in Bay Bulls; police say ...?

James McLeod jmcleod@thetelegram.com
Published on August 2, 2014

The green house on St. John’s Road in Bay Bulls looks run down, boarded up and abandoned.
But there’s somebody home.
Leo Crockwell is still in there.

Following up on a rumour, I headed down to the old Crockwell house on Friday morning.

The house has seen better days — the siding is cracked, the storm door has a broken pane of jagged glass, and a lot of the windows are blocked with plywood. There are no vehicles parked in front of the Crockwell house, but around back, there’s a yellow Ram 1500 V8 Magnum pickup truck.

There are a few other vehicles on the property, but they mostly have grass grown up around them, and look like they haven’t moved in a while.

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The few windows that aren’t barricaded with plywood are dark; if I had to guess, I doubt there’s any power running to the house anymore.

I park my car, walk up and knock on the door.

Nothing.

After a few minutes, I start to look around. I wander to the back of the house and find another door.

I knock.

Still nothing.

After scribbling a few things down in my notepad, I head back around to the front of the house, getting ready to leave.

And there he is, Leo Crockwell, peering at me out of a window on the side of the house, jabbing a finger at me angrily and pointing at the road.

The window is mostly boarded up from the inside, and there’s maybe 20 centimetres of space above the wood. I can only see his face and a bit of his shoulders.

“I’m from The Telegram; I just want to talk,” I shout, trying to be heard through the window.

“You,” he shouts, jabbing his finger at me. “Go!”

Under the circumstances, given Crockwell’s history with that house and telling people to get off his property, I decided not to press my luck. I headed back to the car.

•••

Right now, Crockwell is unlawfully at large. There’s a warrant out for his arrest for breaching probation on June 16 and June 27.

He’s probably most famous for the eight-day standoff he had with police back in 2010, but he was also involved in a run-in with the law in 1998.

Back then, he spent 140 days in custody in the Waterford Hospital until lawyer Jerome Kennedy fought for his release. Ultimately, a judge found that he had been unlawfully detained and Crockwell was freed.

More than a decade later, he popped up on the public radar for threatening and assaulting his sister, who lived with him in their mother’s green house in Bay Bulls.

When the cops tried to come in and get him, Crockwell fired shots. He also shot a police robot which was sent in to deliver a message. They used tear gas and water cannons.

The RCMP had sharpshooters, and specialized officers on scene from all over Atlantic Canada. All told, the standoff cost the cops more than $400,000.

The RCMP said they had the house surrounded, but Crockwell managed to slip out in the night. He was arrested in Goulds the following day by the RNC.

It was a complicated, seven-week court saga. Crockwell went through more than six lawyers — he fired most of them — and in the end, he represented himself at trial.

He was convicted of assaulting his sister, firearms offences and mischief.

He was sent to jail, but late last year he got another legal win, when a judge ruled that his sentence had been incorrectly calculated.

On Dec. 23, he was a free man, out on probation.

Then, in June, he allegedly breached his probation.

On the day that the news broke in July, in a bizarre phone call to VOCM “Backtalk,” Crockwell seemed to suggest that his probation was incorrectly calculated, too, and therefore illegal.

Crockwell said he wouldn’t surrender willingly to police.

More than two weeks later, Crockwell is still at large, and I heard a rumour that he was back in the infamous green house in Bay Bulls, so I went looking for him.

                                           •••

RCMP Sgt. Boyd Merrill said the police are very much aware of the warrant and are actively monitoring the situation.

Merill said any warrant issued in Newfoundland and Labrador will be acted upon, but the police consider a wide array of factors when they decide how to act.

“It depends on the individual — if he’s a risk to the public, if he’s a risk to committing another offence,” Merrill said.

“There are literally dozens of considerations that police would take into account — including tactical ones — before an arrest is made.”

Merrill said Crockwell isn’t considered a danger to the public, and police need to prioritize when carrying out their duties.

“His arrest warrant is for breaching his probation order; it’s not because he has committed a highly violent offence,” he said.

“On the end of the serious scale, it would be considered in the mid-range to the lower range of seriousness.”

                                           •••

After Crockwell kicked me off the property, I knocked on the doors of a few neighbouring houses, to see what people think of the whole situation.

Across the road, Marcella Tobin invited me in to talk. From her kitchen window, you can see the green house, and she remembers back in 2010 when the standoff happened.

The day it happened, Tobin said she had a party planned for her husband’s 60th birthday, with 50 or more guests coming. Instead, they had to abandon the house because it was inside the police perimeter for the standoff.

They left in such a hurry that her daughter had to come back in later with the SWAT team to get the cats out of the house. Tobin said the following month, their light bill went through the roof because the RCMP was running extension cords through her windows for all the floodlights they were using on the Crockwell house, but the police paid for that.

“It seems like so long ago now,” she said.

Tobin told me she saw Crockwell puttering around in the yard by his truck a week ago.

She said the situation doesn’t worry her at all.

She said the only time she’s ever had problems with him is when he was a little kid. He and his friends used to pelt people with snowballs.

Tobin said she mostly just feels bad for Crockwell.

“He’s got problems, and I don’t think he recognizes it,” she said. “He certainly hasn’t been any harm to us, I don’t know if he’s just trying to prove a point or what.”

                                           •••

Before I head back to my car, I walk out onto the road to get a photo of the Crockwell house.

In the front window, I can see the dim outline of a man wearing a plaid shirt. It’s hard to make out much detail about what he’s doing, until a bare arm raises up defiantly against the glass.

Leo Crockwell is giving me the finger.

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames