1996 teen killer again sentenced to life in prison

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — More than two decades after he murdered a fellow teen and desecrated his body, a judge has again sentenced Federico “Kiko” Cruz to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that mandatory life sentences could not be applied to minors, Cruz was granted a new sentencing hearing. His attorneys asked that his sentence be reduced to a specific term of years, saying he was not irredeemable.

In court Wednesday, Kent County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Leiber described the gruesome 1996 murder of 17-year-old David Crawford in the Sparta area. The 16-year-old Cruz beat Crawford to death, dissected his heart and spine, then cut his head off and recorded himself mutilating it.

“At one point, it was alleged that by doing this, he claimed it gave him supernatural powers,” Lieber said in court.

The video was so disturbing it wasn’t shown to the jury that convicted him of murder. Leiber said that upon rewatching it, Cruz once said the only thing he regretted was his choice of background music.

Earlier this week, Cruz told Leiber, who presided over his initial trial, that he had been molested by a cousin as a child, a trauma that set him down the wrong path and led him to fall in with a bad crowd and start doing drugs. He said at the time, he believed he could communicate with demons.

Now 39 and having spent more than half his life in prison, he said he has been rehabilitated.

But in handing down his decision, Leiber said Cruz’s progress, including working toward a degree in ministry from Calvin College, does not mitigate that he is a sociopath.

For Crawford’s family, it was justice again. But it won’t make up for losing the gentle, artistic boy who wanted to be a Disney illustrator.

“I just want him (Cruz) to know there is no way our family would have asked the court to let him out. We want him in prison for life,” Crawford’s mother Juliette Crawford told 24 Hour News 8. “We just want to go on and just live our lives and live it in peace.”

That may not be possible.

“They can’t put it officially behind them,” Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker, who had asked for the life sentence to be upheld, said. “These cases are all going to go to appeals, whether it be Michigan Supreme Court or United States Supreme Court. …This is a new area of law and nobody know where it’s going to go.”

—24 Hour News 8’s Barton Deiters contributed to this report.

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