This never-ending story is one of murder, loss and remembrance

It occurs to me you might not remember the names of Norman and Russell Crew. It has, after all, been about 27 years since they were in the news.

They were local boys, sons of a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper. I met Norman in elementary school back when Las Vegas was a much smaller place.

The Crew brothers burned their names into local infamy in March 1981 when the bodies of Teddy Zappa, 29, and Michael Nasse, 21, were found by homicide detectives in a crudely dug grave near North Shore Drive not far from Lake Mead. The murder victims had been beaten, stabbed, and shot to death.

Both had their throats slit. An autopsy determined that Nasse was still alive when his neck was slashed with a knife.

Norman, 21, and Russell, 19, were arrested quickly and charged with the murders police said were linked to a 10-kilo marijuana deal that turned deadly.

The double-homicide was considered a crime of the decade in the Las Vegas press, but the collective memory of the crimes has faded along with the newsprint that carried the grisly details.

Veteran Chief Deputy District Attorney Bill Koot told the court he’d “never seen a case with worse mutilation.” But Norman Crew claimed he’d acted in self-defense.

L.J. O’Neale was a young prosecutor on duty when the Crews were arrested and observed them up close.

“From my memory, I would say this was a case where it appeared they went in with the intention from the get-go to kill these people,” O’Neale recalled.

Although the DA’s office veteran admits he’s no psychologist, he observed, “It appeared that they did this because they enjoyed doing it.”

The prosecution believed the Crew brothers had no intention of paying for the marijuana. They dug a grave for Nasse. They have admitted since their trial that they’d never seen Zappa before they killed him.

Norman was convicted, and received four life sentences with the possibility of parole after it was revealed that his knife had done the cutting. Russell avoided trial, pleaded guilty, and received the same sentence. In time, their sentences were cut to double-life with the possibility of parole.

The Crews went off to prison, but something happened not long after the penitentiary doors slammed. Their mother, Flo Jones, began a relentless drive to win their freedom.

She wrote hundreds of letters, conducted dozens of interviews. She attended endless parole hearings and tugged at the fabric of the case down to the last thread. Through the years she gained a reputation as a prison-reform advocate, but those who encountered her suspected she was essentially an advocate for her sons.

Today, Jones is a candidate for Assembly District 4. It’s a safe bet she won’t receive the support of the family of Teddy Zappa.

The Crew brothers are up for parole again. In an emotional hearing last week, their advocates argued Norman and Russell have been rehabilitated and deserve a chance at their freedom after more than 27 years.

Although Theodore Zappa Sr. died in 1985 and their mother, Madelyn Zappa, is well into her senior years, Teddy Zappa’s little sisters, Marisa Zappa and Janine Zappa Romano, refuse to stop fighting for the memory of their brother. They remind me their Teddy has been dead for 27 years.

For as long as Jones has fought to get her sons set free, the Zappas have been fighting to make sure the Crew brothers do the minimum they agreed to serve back in 1981: 40 years.

“The worst part of it all is the brutality of it,” Marisa said. “Russell ran with a gun after the victims. Norman slit their throats.”

She argues that big brother Teddy, a UNLV graduate, wasn’t a drug dealer, but an Aladdin poker dealer who had no criminal record.

“It’s a waking, walking nightmare,” Romano said. “What they did to my brother was unthinkable, was animalistic, was horrendous.”

Nearly three decades after their brother’s death and the convictions of his killers, the Zappa sisters spend dozens of hours and thousands of dollars to make sure their side of the story is told.

For the families of the killers and the deceased, this story never ends.

“It’s a tragic thing that we have to keep reliving this nightmare,” Janine said. “After all these years, it’s still fresh in our minds.”

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 383-0295.

ad-high_impact_4
News
See Hollywood Memorabilia for Free This Week
Looking for something free to do this week? Julien's Auctions viewing room at Planet Hollywood is open to the public 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Saturday at Planet Hollywood. Hundreds of iconic movie and television items are on display, including designs and props from Star Wars, Marilyn Monroe's undergarments, costumes from "Superman III," "The Nutty Professor" (1963), "Roseanne" and more. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hollywood Memorabilia Up For Grabs at Las Vegas Auction
Elvis Presley's car, Marilyn Monroe's bras, Han Solo's blaster, and Jerry Lewis's "Nutty Professor" suit are just some of the items that are up for auction at Julien's Auctions at Planet Hollywood June 22 and 23. The auction's viewing room at Planet Hollywood is open to the public 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Saturday at Planet Hollywood. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Springs Preserve Exhibit Shows Off "Nature's Ninjas"
"Nature's Ninjas" arrives at the Springs Preserve, in an exhibit and live show featuring critters that come with natural defenses, from armadillos to snakes, poison dart frogs to scorpions and tarantulas (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CrossRoads of Southern Nevada psychiatric urgent care to open in Las Vegas
Jeff Iverson, who operates the nonprofit sober living facility Freedom House, is opening a private addiction treatment center that will operate a detoxification center and transitional living for substance users trying to recover. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser gives update of officer-involved shooting
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser provides an update about an officer-involved shooting at Radwick Drive and Owens Avenue in the northeast Las Vegas on Thursday. A robbery suspect was shot and killed. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Wayne Newton surprises burglars
Wayne Newton and his wife, Kathleen, arrived at their southeast Las Vegas home shortly before midnight on Wednesday to find two burglars inside their house. The burglars fled and were seen heading north through the property. Las Vegas police quickly set up a perimeter and launched an extensive search of the area, but the suspects were able to escape. It was unclear if the burglars got away with anything of value. Several items, under the watchful eyes of the police, were seen on the ground near the home's main driveway. Neither Newton, nor his wife, were injured. The Newtons were not available for comment.
Police Officers Turn Off Body Cameras
In four separate body camera videos from the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting released Wednesday, officers in a strike team are instructed to turn their body cameras off and comply with the request.
Debra Saunders reports from Singapore
Las Vegas Review-Journal White House correspondent talks about the historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un.
How long will North Korea's denuclearization take?
In Singapore, Las Vegas Review-Journal White House correspondent Debra Saunders asks President Donald Trump how long North Korea's denuclearization will take. White House video.
LVCVA purchase of gift cards hidden
A former LVCVA executive hid the purchase of $90,000 in Southwest Airlines gift cards in records at the agency. Brig Lawson, the senior director of business partnerships, said the money was for promotional events and did not disclose that it was for gift cards. Lawson also instructed Southwest employees to submit invoices without mentioning the purchases were for the cards. More than $50,000 of the cards cannot be accounted for. The convention authority is publicly funded . Lawson recently resigned.
Kim Jong Un visits Marina Bay Sands in Singapore
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his entourage visited the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore briefly Monday night, local time. (Video by Philip Chope)
Coca-Cola Bottle Purse Has 9,888 Diamonds
Designer Kathrine Baumann and jeweler Aaron Shum set the Guinness World Record for most diamonds (9,888) set on a handbag. The Coca Cola bottle-shaped purse was on display at the Coca Cola Store on the Strip. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sentosa Island a pleasure resort with a pirate past
The site of Tuesday's U.S.-North Korea summit is known for theme parks and resorts. But before that, it was known as a pirate island. (Debra Saunders/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Judge Sandra Pomrenze's comment about girl's hair
Nevada Races Full of Women From Both Sides
It's already been a historic election season for women in politics. Record numbers of women are running for political office all over the country - including Nevada. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
East Las Vegas home damaged by fire
Clark County Fire Department crews responded to a house fire in east Las Vegas Thursday morning. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
911 call: Mom tries to get to son shot at Route 91
A woman stuck on the interstate during the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting on Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas, tries to get to her son. 911 call released by Las Vegas police.
Las Vegas 911 caller reports people shot on Oct. 1
A 911 caller on Oct. 1, 2017, reports several people shot at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas.
911 call from woman under stage in Las Vegas shooting
A 911 call from a woman underneath the stage at the Route 91 Harvest festival during the Oct. 1, 2017, Las Vegas shooting.
LVCVA facing scandal over gift cards
LVCVA is facing a growing scandal over airline gift cards. LVCVA bought $90,000 in Southwest Airline gift cards between 2012 and 2017. Now auditors can’t account for more than $50,000 of the cards. CEO Rossi Ralenkotter and his family used $16,207 in gift cards on 56 trips. Brig Lawson, the senior director of business partnerships, was responsible for buying and distributing the cards. He recently resigned.
Siblings separated in the foster care system get a day together
St. Jude's Ranch for Children and Cowabunga Bay Cares program partnered to bring 75 siblings together for the day to play on the water slides and in the pools at the Henderson water park. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
People flee the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1, 2017
Las Vegas police released footage from a camera on Mandalay Bay of the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1, 2017
Aaliyah Inghram awarded medal of courage
Aaliyah Inghram, a 10-year-old girl who was shot while protecting her 18-month-old brother and 4-year-old cousin during a shooting on May 8, awarded medal of courage. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Las Vegans Pack Public Lands Open House
A crowd filled the Clark County Library conference room Tuesday afternoon where Clark County officials hold their first -- and possibly only -- public meeting on plans to open almost 39,000 acres of federal land for development just outside the Las Vegas metropolitan area. County commissioners are set to vote June 19 on a potentially controversial resolution seeking federal legislation that would set aside tens of thousands of acres for conservation while giving Nevada’s largest community more room to grow. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police search Henderson Constable's home and office
Las Vegas police served search warrants Tuesday at Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell's home and office. The investigation was sparked by a Las Vegas Review-Journal story showing Mitchell wrote himself $70,000 in checks, used ATMs at casinos and video poker bars, and traveled to places his adult children live. All using county funds. Police refused to comment but Mitchell's attorney said he did nothing wrong.
Vegas Golden Knights fans shows his colors for community
Vegas Golden Knights superfan Lynn Groesbeck has wrapped his new truck with Knights logos and images. He loves how the Golden Knights are bringing community back to Las Vegas. People stop him on the street to take photos and share his support. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Acting Coach Daryl Morris on His Craft
Acting coach Daryl Morris, whose father Bobby was Elvis Presley's conductor in Las Vegas, discusses his craft and how he leads his own classes. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Constable wanted county funds to fight Review-Journal investigation
The Las Vegas Review-Journal asked for public records to investigate constable spending. But Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell hired outside counsel to fight the request. And he wanted the county to pay nearly $7,500 for those attorneys. The county declined. And records show the constable's office owes taxpayers $700,000. County officials said the money will be repaid over three years. Mitchell abandoned his re-election before the Review-Journal story ran.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like