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Parolee, 83, gets 3 to 10 for woman's knife death



Published: Wed, September 28, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The defendant already spent 20 years in prison for killing his second wife.

By ROGER G. SMITH

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- George Crankfield Sr. took some deep breaths as deputy sheriffs rolled his wheelchair into court, an oxygen tank strapped to the back.

Crankfield, 83, his hearing aids in place, listened as Judge Jack Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court read the terms of his guilty plea Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter.

Crankfield will spend three to 10 years in prison for the March 2004 stabbing death of 63-year-old Birstine Wolfe, described then as his girlfriend. Prosecutors are recommending the maximum sentence.

On parole then

Crankfield was on parole at the time after his 2003 release. He had served 20 years for shooting and killing his second wife. Police said he has an extensive criminal record.

He faced 15 years to life in prison on an aggravated murder charge.

Assistant Prosecutor Gina Arnaut noted that Wolfe's family objected to the plea deal. The prosecution agreed to the deal, however, because of Crankfield's age and bad health, and because there had been a struggle over the knife, she said.

James S. Gentile said his client has heart problems.

"A flat 10 years, your honor?" Crankfield asked Judge Durkin when the topic of the sentence length came up. "Hey, your honor, I'm sick and I'm dying. I concede what I did was wrong."

Wants family near

Crankfield told the judge, however, that he wanted to die with his family around him and not in prison.

Judge Durkin questioned Crankf2ield again to assure he understood the deal before accepting his guilty plea.

"I have to plead guilty, I did it," Crankfield said.

Judge Durkin added that Crankfield would serve five years' parole -- should he live long enough to finish his sentence.

Crankfield stabbed Wolfe to death during an argument at the home they shared on Baldwin Avenue. Reports said he called 911 to say had stabbed his girlfriend several times.

Gentile said he thinks the plea was fair because his client and the victim each had knives at some point during the fight.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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