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Contrasting pictures of teenager accused of stabbing classmate at Baltimore Renaissance Academy

Donte Crawford, 18, is on trial in the fatal stabbing last year of a 17-year-old classmate at Renaissance Academy.
Donte Crawford, 18, is on trial in the fatal stabbing last year of a 17-year-old classmate at Renaissance Academy. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

Prosecutors described Donte Crawford as a troubled teenager with a plan last November when he waited for a classmate at Baltimore Renaissance Academy to arrive at school, followed him into a classroom and stabbed him.

But attorneys for the 18-year-old Crawford said he had received threats all day that he was going to be killed after school and felt threatened by Ananias Jolley. Crawford intended to fight Jolley, attorney Jonas Needleman said, not kill him.

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Crawford is charged with first-degree murder and possession of a deadly weapon with intent to harm. Two starkly different pictures of the teenager emerged during the first day of his trial Wednesday before Judge Melissa Phinn in Baltimore Circuit Court.

Crawford was arrested in front of his home on Vine Street after the stabbing. Jolley, 17, was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was removed from life support and died the next month.

The attack stunned Baltimore Renaissance Academy, a public high school known for its intense mentoring program for troubled boys. Crawford and Jolley were both in the program.

Prosecutor Bethany Durand told the jury that video footage will prove Crawford lay in wait for his victim. She said Crawford stabbed Jolley steps away from Principal Nikkia Rowe and some of the school's mentors.

"He was watching and he was waiting," Durand said. "He was outside of biology Room 300 pacing back and forth. … Seconds after Mr. Jolley goes in the room, a cry comes out."

An autopsy showed Jolley was stabbed once in the left chest and that the left ventricle of his heart was cut, Durand said. He was then stabbed another time in the heart. He also had cuts on his right arm and hand.

Needleman said there is no doubt that Crawford was present. But he said the school surveillance video doesn't show what happened in the classroom.

He said Crawford wouldn't have killed a classmate knowing there was video surveillance throughout the school and teachers and students so close by.

Needleman noted that Crawford walked home and didn't try to hide. He didn't resist when police officers arrested him, or try to hide the bloody clothes he was wearing.

"Donte Crawford is no murderer," Needleman said. "He is no killer. He is no assassin."

Needleman said Crawford and Jolley had fought for months. Crawford was not from the neighborhood and seen as an outsider — someone easy to pick on, Needleman told jurors.

At the time, police said the teenagers and classmates had been in altercations before.

Crawford had asked for help, Needleman said, but the school administration didn't do enough to intervene.

"School was a dangerous place, and he felt endangered," Needleman said of Crawford.

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On Wednesday, the prosecution on Wednesday called to the stand the police officer who arrested Crawford and three forensic and lab technicians who took blood samples and other evidence the day of the crime. They said that Crawford had blood on his clothes and some bruising on his chest and back, but no cutting injuries.

The trial is scheduled to resume Thursday morning.

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