Grand jury fails to indict man accused of murdering woman

Brooke Crawford (Source: East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office)
Brooke Crawford (Source: East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - After spending over 150 days in jail, a man accused of murder was released from prison after a grand jury failed to return an indictment.

Rajeski Ford, 25, was arrested by Baton Rouge Police officers on February 6, 2015. He was charged for the shooting death of Brooke Ashley Crawford, 30.

Crawford's body was found in a field near the 1500 block of Gracie Street on January 26, 2015. Reports say she was shot multiple times.

DNA evidence was collected and pointed investigators to Ford. Although he allegedly admitted to having sexual intercourse with Crawford prior to her death, he claims he did not kill her.

Crawford had a long prior criminal history for charges of prostitution.

Although unable to produce a murder weapon or motive, investigators charged Ford and booked him in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. His bond was set at $250,000.

A little more than a month after Crawford's death, another female was found murdered. The body of Jemina Williams, 34, was found less than a mile away from the location where Crawford was discovered.

Similar to Crawford, Williams was found partially nude and suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Also similar to Crawford, Williams has a prior criminal history for prostitution.

That case, however, remains open with no named suspect or motive.

Defense Attorney Gail Estelle Horne Ray believes it is possible the two cases are connected, which could prove her client's innocence.

Investigators with the Baton Rouge Police Department, however, say there's no evidence linking the two cases.

When presented with the evidence of the case on Wednesday, a grand jury pretermitted the case, meaning they could neither move forward nor dismiss the charges.

The time allowance to legally produce that evidence was exceeded. According to Louisiana law, a District Attorney, in certain cases, has 120 days after an arrest to present a case to a grand jury. Ray did file a motion under Article 701, which is the defendant's right to a speedy trial.

Without an indictment from a grand jury, the prosecution cannot move forward with the case. The case can be brought back at any time to a grand jury, so long as it is pretermitted.

It is not common for a pretermitted case to return to a grand jury.

Regarding unrelated cases, both the Baton Rouge Police Department and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office say pretermitted cases are still considered "closed" to investigators.

"However, anytime a case is pretermitted the detectives look at the case and attempt to gather new or additional information on the case," an investigator with the Baton Rouge Police Department said in an email response to questions about cases that were pretermitted in 2014. "Cases that are pretermitted are usually done so to gather or tie up loose ends before going to trial or various other reasons. That being said if a case is cleared by arrest, pretermitted or open if new information is learned we still follow up on all leads."

For now, the only certainties are that Ford is a free man and at least one or more killers are on the loose.

If you know anything that could help investigators with the cases mentioned in this story, call Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-STOP.

Copyright 2015 WAFB. All rights reserved.