Ahead of the funeral for Alexis Crawford on Saturday (Nov. 16) the spokesman for the victim’s family, Rev. Markel Hutchins, spoke with BET and provided new details about the days leading up to the discovery of her remains.
The 21-year-old Clark Atlanta University student was allegedly killed by her roommate, Jordyn Jones, and her roommate’s boyfriend, Barron Brantley, on Halloween, days after she filed a sexual assault report against Brantley.
BET: Did Alexis’ family know Jordyn Jones' family and if so, have the families been in contact with one another during the search and/or the conclusion of Alexis’ death and charges brought against Jordyn?
Rev. Hutchins: There has not been any communication since the charges were brought against Jordyn and Barron. There had, of course, been some communication prior to the discovery of Alexis’ remains.
I think by most people’s accounts, Jordyn Jones’ parents are good people that seem to be upstanding citizens and so there had been some light communication and I don’t want to get into the details of it, but there had been some light communication between members of Ms. Crawford’s family and members of Jordyn’s family. And, in fact, Jordyn early on.
When Alexis went missing, members of her family, specifically her siblings, reached out to Jordyn to communicate with her and the lines of communication were open for a period of time before Jordyn ceased that communication and it was during that time frame that the family grew more and more concerned and that’s what they have shared with law enforcement.
BET: Did Alexis’ family ever meet Barron Brantley?
Rev. Hutchins: No.
BET: Why didn't you elaborate on the previous incident that happened to Alexis when you spoke during the initial press conference about her disappearance? Was it because the police, you, or Alexis’ family already suspected Brantley and/or Jones had something to do with her disappearance?
Rev. Hutchins: We were standing with the Atlanta Police Department at the time, and we were standing in police headquarters.
I certainly had my suspicions as I do believe members of the family suspected that the disappearance of Alexis and the rape allegations that she launched against Barron Brantley just days before she disappeared, and certainly I think any reasonable or logically thinking person would think that there’s some connection there.
So, I didn’t want to directly address or announce that that rape allegation or sexual assault allegation had been filed because I didn’t want to compromise the police officers and the investigative work that I knew they were engaged in.
And who knows what Barron would have done, where he would have run to had we announced that in fact he had been accused by Alexis Crawford of raping her so, we did that to protect the investigators.
But, I also said that because too often our young women are not believed and I didn’t want anyone to believe that somehow, someway, Alexis had just arbitrarily gone off and that she was just on vacation or she ran away from home and didn’t want to talk to anybody or that she had a drug habit or anything like that.
I wanted the public to know that she had dealt with some things that she didn’t deserve to deal with. So, I was very intentional about teasing the fact that something had happened to her without disclosing what exactly it was in such a way that I felt would compromise the investigation.
BET: Do you or the family think more could have been done after Alexis reported the sexual assault?
Rev. Hutchins: I don’t want to get too much into that, but what I will tell you is that Alexis Crawford is not here.
What Alexis’ family wants to do now is to focus not on how she died or even why she died, but the fact that she lived. And so, as the family and I work through planning the funeral we really are focused on that.
There are some questions, obviously, that they will have. I’m sure there will be questions the public will have as well, but at this moment in time, I think it’s much more important for us to focus on celebrating Alexis’ life rather than raising those questions.
I have very strong feelings about that and when the time comes and it’s appropriate to address the pendency of the time period between when Alexis reported the rape and when she disappeared, I certainly will do so, and I believe the family will have some questions as the public has its questions.
But at this moment, it’s been less than a week since Alexis Crawford’s remains were found in that cruel, cold park just outside of Atlanta. So, I want to lay her to rest. I want to give the family and Alexis the decency and dignity that they deserve without getting into anything that might appear to be controversial with regard to what could or could not have been done.
BET: Reports indicated that friends of Alexis said she told them she wasn't comfortable sleeping in her bedroom after the sexual assault. Did any of them suspect Jordyn and/or Brantley in Alexis' disappearance and/or murder?
Rev. Hutchins: I had a conversation just last night with one of her sisters, who suggested to me that Alexis told her on FaceTime that she did not feel comfortable sleeping in her room and I think the prevailing thought among some of Alexis’ family members that knew she didn’t feel comfortable sleeping in her room was that she was just stressed out about being a good student, maybe she had a test or something like that.
There was not any suspicion from members of her family that her lack of comfort with sleeping in her bedroom had anything to do with the assault that she was subjected to. So, there wasn’t any clear knowledge.
But here’s what I’ll tell you, Alexis has a very big, strong, loving family and if those family members, if her brothers or sisters, or her father or mother had any inclination that Alexis had been assaulted, not only would they had intervened, but they would have come and taken that baby to a safe place.
It’s just a tragedy all the way around.
When the Crawford family came to me last Monday (Nov. 4) -- it seems like an eternity now -- they called me because they knew of my advocacy and for standing up for folks’ rights, and they did not feel that Alexis Crawford and her disappearance or Alexis Crawford generally was getting the kind of treatment that she deserved to have gotten. I think that for them that meant law enforcement, the media and the community at large.
There was very few, actually, there were no stories online or elsewhere about Alexis Crawford when the family came to me. So, within a number of hours of them telling me what their story was, we kind of set out on a strategy and unfortunately, that strategy led to Alexis’ remains being found.
Oh, how I wish things had been done differently because it’s just simply heart wrenching and heartbreaking to know that Alexis has lost her life and that she had two people that she trusted and who she shared a very intimate space with being under the same roof, (who) essentially committed suicide themselves. They committed functional suicide. Barron and Jordyn threw their lives away.
So, it’s just heartbreaking and heart-wrenching all the way around. And to have to walk with this family as they cry and grieve, I’m talking throughout the day with Alexis’ mother and sisters and brothers and father and we’re picking caskets and gravesites and those kinds of things for a young lady who had her whole life ahead of her so senselessly murdered. It’s the worst kind of outcome that anyone could have hoped for.
I don’t want to sound boastful, but the truth of the matter is, what if I had been out of town? What if the family couldn’t reach me? I can honestly tell you, deep within my soul that I believe that Alexis’ body would still be in that park if [Barron and Jordyn] had not moved her or disposed of her, they may have burned her remains.
And I don’t believe that the two people that killed her [allegedly Barron and Jordyn] would be in jail tonight. As much joy as I have being able to walk through this with the family it’s also a tremendous burden because they shouldn’t have to go through this. They shouldn’t have to have somebody, anybody, to give voice to help them. They shouldn’t have needed anybody to intervene with law enforcement and those kinds of things.
BET: So, just to clarify, did Alexis’ family learn about the sexual assault report after she went missing?
Rev. Hutchins: That’s a question I don’t want to answer. You can infer from what I said. I answered your question without answering it.
BET: What does the family want to see happen in order to bring justice for Alexis?
Rev. Hutchins: I think the family is not focused on that right now. And what is amazing is that all of the time and in all of the conversations daily that I’m having and have had with members of Alexis’ family, I can tell you that amazingly I have not heard the kind of anger and what one could reasonably expect in this, would be hatred and visceral anger towards the people that cut Alexis down, they really are, and I’m not just saying this because it sounds good, they really are focused on honoring Alexis and celebrating her life.
So, I think at this point in time, there is no focused attention placed on what they want to see happen to Barron Brantley or Jordyn Jones.
Obviously, they want them held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
There is just no explanation or logical reason for them to have done what they did to Alexis so, while there is a strong sense that they want justice for Alexis, there is not an ongoing conversation or really any intentional thought that’s been given by the family as to what it looks like.
They’re going to need some time to process it all. They’re going to need to hear from prosecutors and the police [about] exactly what happened before they really form a solid perspective on what justice looks like for them and to them.
And so, the focus now and through Saturday is to lay her to rest. To give her the kind of sendoff to be with the Lord that she deserves and subsequent to that the family will give some focus on exactly what justice looks like for Alexis Crawford.
BET: Alexis' funeral is scheduled for this Saturday, are there any other details you'd like to provide about the funeral arrangements?
Rev. Hutchins: There’s going to be a public viewing from 4 pm until 8 pm (EST) on Friday (Nov. 15) at the Hill Chapel Baptist Church in Athens. (Media will be allowed on the property but not in the building, according to a press release provided to BET.)
Her body will then lie in state at the Cornerstone Church in Athens on Saturday (Nov. 16). (Media will be allowed in the building and are welcomed to film and stream live from the designated area in the sanctuary, according to the press release.)
The funeral was originally going to be at Hill Chapel, but I made the decision to change the venue because Hill Chapel is about the same size in terms of the number of people that it will accommodate, but the media and public interest is so strong, in this case, Cornerstone is actually better situated to accommodate not just the people in the seats but also the media. It’s more spacious. So, it doesn’t necessarily hold more people, but it’s a larger venue that will provide an opportunity for media outlets to have cameras and those kinds of things.
I think it’s important that the world honors Alexis because she has touched people’s hearts and minds and to the extent that Alexis’ death can be light in darkness, I know that’s what the family wants because they surely don’t want any other families to have to go through what they have gone through.
So, through the experience of following Alexis’ story if some young woman, some man, some older person, some mother, father, can prevent their loved one from being subjected to this set of circumstances, we surely want to utilize Alexis’ death to be that kind of light in dark places.
The burial is going to be private for the family only, but the funeral will be open to the public.
If there are people that want to assist Alexis’ family in the costs of having to unexpectedly bury this young lady, they should surely reach out to the Gregory B. Levett & Sons Funeral Home as they’re accepting people’s kind gestures.
[This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity]
Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images