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Herda’s killer avoids death penalty

A jury on Tuesday spared the life of the man convicted of killing Las Vegas businessman John Herda and sentenced him to life in prison without the chance for parole.

Bryan Crawley, 41, was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Herda, a World War II combat veteran who later founded Herda’s Discount TV and Appliance.

"Crawley is simply not the worst of the worst offenders," said Tony Sgro, one of Crawley’s attorneys.

The jury decided that Crawley’s tragic childhood and his statement of remorse, among other things, outweighed his life of crime. The jury also found that Crawley didn’t deserve to die because the slaying of Herda during a home invasion and robbery wasn’t premeditated.

"We were obviously really relieved," said Christopher Oram, Crawley’s other attorney.

Herda’s family was unhappy with the sentence. Susan Herda, the slain man’s daughter-in-law, said the family was hoping the jury would sentence Crawley to death in part so he would be kept away from the general prison population. They believe Crawley has friends in prison with whom he can interact.

She said Crawley is not afraid of life behind bars and his life sentence amounts to a slap on the wrist.

Crawley shot Herda six times and killed him in Herda’s Spanish Oaks home in 2006. Herda, 83, managed to shoot Crawley with a .22-caliber pistol before he died. After the slaying, Crawley fled to Mexico to get a bullet removed from his side.

"He was a fighter, so he went like a fighter," Herda’s grandson Jonathan Herda said during an earlier hearing. "I can’t see it going any other way."

The jury convicted Crawley of 24 charges, including murder, armed robbery, attempted murder and solicitation to commit murder. Prosecutors Marc DiGiacomo and Lisa Luzaich Rego told the jury that before he was arrested, Crawley stabbed a man during a bar fight and tried to kill a woman during a robbery.

After he was arrested, Crawley tried to fabricate evidence and hire a hit man to kill three witnesses against him.

A co-defendant in the case, Christopher Brewer, earlier pleaded guilty and was sentenced to spend eight to 20 years in prison. Brewer, a close friend of the Herda family, approached Crawley about robbing the businessman. Brewer knew the victim’s schedule and other personal information.

Herda’s relatives said they will attend every one of Brewer’s parole hearings to make sure he stays behind bars.

On Monday, the jury learned that Crawley’s mother worked as a high-priced call girl in Las Vegas and introduced him to drugs and sex at an early age. Witnesses also told the jury that Crawley was abused.

Although he won a sports scholarship to Texas A&M and once owned a successful cleaning business in Las Vegas, Crawley’s life was defined more by crimes than by good deeds, authorities said. Before Herda’s slaying, Crawley had been in and out of prison for various offenses, including conspiracy to commit robbery.

Crawley said Monday that he was sorry for his crimes, an apology that Susan Herda said rang hollow.

"I felt it was the biggest pile of horse manure I had walked in, in my life," she said. "And that’s putting it nicely."

Contact reporter David Kihara at dkihara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

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