Less Than Heroic?
Dog Handler Accused Of Scamming Those Who Help Her
POSTED: 9:19 am PDT May 25, 2006
UPDATED: 10:05 am PDT May 25, 2006
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SAN DIEGO -- Kristine Crawford has gained recognition for being an excellent dog handler and working with elite search and rescue teams.
She claims to be an advocate for the "misunderstood" pitbull. And her appearances on national television have given her widespread exposure of her worthy efforts to help those lost.
Crawford's appearances have also given her credibility in the tight-knit search and rescue community. For example, when the Columbia shuttle mission ended in disaster in 2003, Crawford was called upon by NASA's K-9 team leader , who knew of her reputation.
Crawford was also there when searchers went looking for and found Lacy Peterson's body.
Her rescue efforts are highlighted on her Web site. The site also includes credit card payment options for her nonprofit educational program.
So, a protector of the pitbull and a heroine of search and rescue efforts -- what's not to like about Crawford? That's where this story takes a very ugly turn.
Laura and Wayne Rathe opened their hearts and their home to Crawford six years ago.
"We befriended her. She started coming into our home," Linda Rathe said.
Over time, Crawford revealed her "tragic" story to the Rathes: that she had cancer with only six months to live.
"She would drive to our house and Wayne and I would go out to the car, carry her in, put her in our spare bedroom," Rathe said.
The Rathes told Crawford they wanted Hospice care to help her in her last days and a oncologist to help them understand her needs. She disappeared without a word the next day.
Years later, the Rathes heard about another search and rescue family, the Kellys , who opened their home to a woman dying of cancer.
"She claimed she had adult lupus and metastic stage five cancer," Kimberly Kelly said.
Crawford told Kelly she had one month and two days to live.
The Rathes contacted Kelly to warn her about Crawford. That's when Crawford refused to talk to a doctor about her medical history.
"Everything was a total fabrication," Kelly said.
Crawford told Kelly her father died in the Sept. 11 terror attacks and her husband died in a car wreck in Colorado.
"To use the events of 9-11 and bastardize that into a personal drama so you can get money out of people is unforgiveable," Kelly said.
Kelly and Rathe said they are puzzled by Crawford's strange behavior and upset after spending thousands of dollars to help Crawford. But what really hurts, is the deceit.
"When my sister died of cancer, that's when I really got angry at her," Rathe said.
10News investigative reporter Marti Emerald tried repeat edly to talk to Crawford through friends and family, but got no response.
Emerald called the attorney representing Crawford on two theft charges for allegedly stealing a human skeleton from Menlo College, used, apparently, in her education program. The attorney did not respond either.
There are at least three other people who may have fallen for Crawford's story, including some on the East Coast.