DNA helps solve 2008 murder case

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A Lake Hamilton man has been arrested for murder in what the Polk County Sheriff calls a "bizarre" attempt to get out of a life sentence for previous drug charges.

"You can't make this stuff up," said Sheriff Grady Judd.

Judd says DNA evidence on a pair of white and blue Air Jordans helped solve the killing of Michael Tramel, 19, of Lake Hamilton.

"Over the last seven years, we have investigated this and put the different pieces of the puzzle together."

In 2008, Jimmie Crews, then 35, was trying to avoid a life sentence for drug charges by providing what deputies call "substantial assistance," information that helps solve another crime.

"He was trying to help us on a couple of murders. We followed up on the information. It's bogus."

While out on bond, he let detectives know he had information about another killing.

"He reports a murder to us. 'Oh, there is this guy in the orange grove. He has been murdered'," Sheriff Judd recalled.

Deputies found Tramel shot to death, and Crews gave two names of supposed killers.

"We investigated them, and they have ironclad alibis," said Judd.

Judd says Crews, trying to give deputies something - anything - to get a break in sentencing, told deputies they could find the shoes the killer wore in a cooler near a house in Lake Hamilton.

"The evidence at the scene shows a size 13 sneaker," said Judd. "There were three sets of DNA in the sneaker."

Not only do the treads match what was at the scene, but the sheriff says there was DNA of three people: Crews' wife, his brother - who was already in jail - and Crews himself.

"He's going, 'I've got to provide substantial assistance on a murder. Since they don't believe that, I'll just go murder someone'," Judd said. "He is the one who reports the murder to us! This is the craziest thing I have ever heard."

Deputies recently matched the DNA to Crews, and reminded him of what Tramel's family told detectives.

"They said, 'The last time we saw the victim, he left with Jimmie'."

The sheriff says the road to avoiding a life sentence, for Crews, was paved with another, and that killing a teenager, to him, was worth it.

"He cares nothing about humanity," said Judd.

Crews would have gotten out of prison on the drug charges in 2024. Now the sheriff says he could face the death penalty.