Austin mother of daughter killed 17.5 years ago uneasy as killer’s parole hearing approaches

The daughter of an Austin woman was shot to death 17-and-a-half years ago. The killer’s parole hearing is coming up, and the mom is anxious.

"I feel like he needs to stay in prison," Jennifer Crecente’s mother Elizabeth Crecente said.

Jennifer Crecente and Justin Crabbe dated on and off for about two and half years. They broke up when Crabbe was in jail for a misdemeanor, but once he got out, he went back to her.

"Pretty immediately he’d ask Jennifer to help him with money and help him with his GED and help him get to drug testing, so even though they were not dating in the beginning of 2006, that theme of you're the one who needs to save me, only you can save me, was just immediately there," Crecente said.

Crecente said Crabbe emotionally abused her 18-year-old daughter and on February 15, 2006, it turned deadly when Crecente was leaving Crabbe’s house in the neighborhood.

"They walked back toward the wooded area, and he stabbed her in the arm at some point. My guess is to make her go with him, but she did not know that in that wooded area, he had hidden a sawed-off shotgun loaded with bird shot. He made her get on her knees, and he shot her in the back of the head, and it was close range," Crecente said.

Crecente’s body was discovered in the woods by a neighbor walking his dog. Crabbe wasn’t arrested right away.

"The first interrogation was a couple of days after he killed her, and he went into the station with blood on his body. Yeah, he wasn't a smart criminal," Crecente said.

Investigators said video footage from a sporting goods store showed Crabbe with someone purchasing ammunition for the gun. Court documents said Crabbe admitted to having his hands on the gun when it went off, and he didn’t check to see how badly Crecente was injured. Instead, he ran away and threw the gun.

Crecente’s mother was devastated as Jennifer was her only child.

Jennifer Crecente pictured with her mother, Elizabeth, in 2003. Photo courtesy: Elizabeth Crecente

"She was bright and when she laughed, you could not help but laugh with her because she would just throw her head back and laugh and her face would turn all red. She had an amazing laugh. She was witty, she was wickedly intelligent. She was something else. She really was, she was a force," Crecente said.

Crecente said she tried to get help for Jennifer, but the resources weren’t available.

"There really are a lot of minimizations of dating abuse when you're that young. I heard ‘you need to just let her work this out on her own,’" Crecente said.

But it didn’t work out.

"I just felt like it was so far from reality that people wanted to talk to me about hope. It's just so painful and like that is not for me, I will never have hope, so I just wanted to call myself on that and face it head on, so that's part of the name," Crecente said.

Crecente said hope is part of the name of the foundation she started in honor of her daughter, Jennifer’s Hope

Crecente is now helping others and continuing Jennifer’s legacy.

Justin Crabbe emotionally abused 18-year-old Jennifer Crecente. On February 15, 2006, Crecente was killed by Crabbe. Photo courtesy: Elizabeth Crecente

"Jennifer wanted to be a criminal psychologist, so she wanted to help people like Justin. I think she really had a passion for helping people," Crecente said.

Crecente said she now helps people being abuse and the abusers.

"They deserve help as well, and they deserve some hope as well that they don't have to go down that road," Crecente said.

But Crabbe did. On August 1, 2007, Crabbe entered a plea deal for 35 years in prison and waived all his rights to appeal. After 17-and-a-half years, Crabbe is eligible for parole this year.

"I'm worried because he had talked so many times about murdering me," Crecente said.

Crecente said he needs to stay put in prison.

"I knew Justin for 2.5 years and there was at no point anything that said to me that he wanted change. I don't know if he's capable of change. I don't really think so," Crecente said.

Crecente plans to meet with the parole board in the next two months and ask to put off Crabbe’s eligibility for parole by five years.

If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788.

To send letters for the parole board, email