|Benji Crowden - June 2016|
One of Jerry Benjamin Crowden’s earliest crimes was the fairly banal “criminal mischief” for which he was arrested in June 2012 at the age of 19. Six months later he had graduated to forgery when he stole a blank check from his grandmother and attempted to cash it at a local bank.
Having made the check out for $80.00 and listing the payee as “cash,” Crowden then proceeded to misspell his grandmother’s name. Even then, he might not have been caught during a busy banking day, but the hapless Florence man chose to commit his crime on New Year’s Day when only a few banks were open and customers were scarce.
The bank notified the grandmother that Benji, as he is universally called to distinguish him from his career felon father Jerry Don Crowden, was up to no good, and she immediately had her errant heir arrested.
Bailed out by family members, Crowden was soon out of jail, but his freedom lasted less than two weeks. On January 12, 2013, he was arrested in Florence for breaking and entering a motor vehicle and third degree theft with witness intimidation thrown in.
Crowden was already the father of a young son, and at this point his girlfriend decided to sever all ties with the blooming felon. In a very public Facebook spat, Crowden called her selfish and announced how much his son needed him. Sadly, he didn’t at that point attempt to become the father his child did need. Instead, he acquired a new girlfriend.
By July of that year, Benji had accumulated four more charges, adding assault and trespassing to two counts of theft. Two months later, Florence police picked up Crowden on two counts of failing to appear in municipal court.
Crowden managed to rack up five more charges in April 2014 when he failed to show up on previous charges in Lauderdale District Court. Crowden’s lack of appointment keeping skills obviously riled the judge, and this time the aspiring bad boy was handed some real time to serve.
By early 2016, Benji was back in the Shoals and looking for a job…using the word in 1930s gangster movie patois. This time Crowden had connections and managed to throw together a gang of four others who were similarly minded.
In late February, Benji’s new crime empire hit a snag when he was arrested for theft and criminal mischief in Lauderdale County. He soon bonded out of jail and, according to authorities, immediately went back to business as usual.
By late June, detectives had accumulated enough evidence to arrest Crowden along with Dedrick Casey, Brandon Berry Sharp, Kayla Michelle Sharp Burns. and Lawrence Matthew Lee. Authorities say the group led by Crowden and Brandon Berry Sharp has been connected to thefts in at least 12 homes/businesses in Lauderdale County. The investigators expect the number to rise to as many as 20 or 25 by the end of the investigation. One victim lost over $30,000.00 in goods, mostly guns. Yes, guns seemed to have been a favorite target of Crowden’s gang. At the time of their arrests, the gang’s purloined loot may have racked up a value of $150,000.00.
Much of what the detectives have recovered is still to be claimed. If you believe you may have been a victim of Benji Crowden and his friends, call the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office at 256-760-5757 and ask to speak with Det. Bullock or Det. Bolton.
And what of Jerry Benjamin Crowden? Now 23, he remains in the Lauderdale County Detention Center charged with over a dozen felonies. He’s also charged with probation violation and the violation of his March 2016 bail. In other words, he’s not going anywhere any time soon except to court. Benji’s little boy was four years-old this spring. We have to wonder when he was going to start being the father he said the child needed?
Today's photographs courtesy of the Shoals Insider. Be sure to like them on Facebook!