|Article Last Updated: 11/07/2005 04:21 AM|
|Exotic dancer's death recalled as bar burned|
|DANIEL TEPFER firstname.lastname@example.org|
|BRIDGEPORT — On Friday, a fire closed Bishop's Corner.|
In its day, however, the notorious East Side strip bar was the focus of regular police interest, including the fateful October 1999 meeting between Mary Beth Coover and Lisa Rene Crabtree.
At the time, Coover was tending bar at the Boston Avenue emporium while the skimpily attired Crabtree, the mother of three, was gliding around a pole at the center of the bar for the amusement of the clientele.
The body of 28-year-old Crabtree, who grew up on an American Indian reservation in Oklahoma, was subsequently found Oct. 19, 1999 wrapped in a carpet on the floor of Coover's Main Street apartment. She was stabbed 28 times in what police described as a near-dissection. Blood was splattered throughout the apartment.
Police would not have known Crabtree had been killed, had Coover not — through her lawyer — alerted police there was "something" in her apartment near St. Vincent's Medical Center.
Then, two days later, Coover confessed to Bridgeport Police Detective Christopher Lee that she had killed Crabtree following a fight in her apartment.
Despite her confession, two Superior Court juries refused to convict Coover of the crime.
A first trial ended in a hung jury, and in the second the jury found Coover not guilty.
On the witness stand, Coover claimed she had lied to police and the real killer was her former boyfriend, Richard Davila Jr. Coover contended she had dropped Crabtree off at her apartment and then went out to buy crack cocaine for her. But when she returned, accompanied by Davila and another man, she found Crabtree had trashed her apartment.
Coover said she hit Crabtree in the head with a beer bottle as the victim threatened her with a knife, she said.
At one point, Coover said, she ended up on the floor with Crabtree over her holding the knife. "I then seen somebody's arm, I didn't know whose it was at the time, grab her face and cut her throat,'' Coover said. Coover said she crawled into the bathroom where she threw up and, after a short time, Davila came in, covered in blood.
Coover's testimony was supported by an unlikely ally, the state's chief medical examiner, H. Wayne Carver, who said a man likely did the pattern of stab wounds. Davila testified for the state that he only helped Coover clean up the blood after the killing.
He couldn't be charged with the crime because the state had already granted him immunity in exchange for his testimony. He's now living in Florida.
Crabtree's body was taken back to Oklahoma by her parents.