Suspect in Jack Phillips’s case commits suicide

James Lee Crummel, the prime suspect in the 1995 disappearance of Jack Daniel “J.D.” Phillips, has died on death row. He hanged himself with an electrical cord, without leaving a note or anything. He was a serial child molester with a record for sex crimes against children dating back to the 60s. He was sentenced to death in 2004 for the 1979 kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of 13-year-old Jamey Trotter. Jamey was kidnapped in 1979 (here’s a picture of him). In 1990, Crummel “found” his skull and took it to the police, saying he had been hiking when he discovered it in a national forest. It was 1996 before Jamey was identified. Seventeen years his family waited.

I knew about the Trotter case but this is the first time I’ve heard about Crummel being linked to J.D.’s case. They had thought of prosecuting him for J.D.’s presumed death at the same time he was prosecuted for Jamey Trotter’s murder. Crummel said he’d confess to J.D.’s murder if the prosecution agreed not to seek the death penalty against him, but the deal went nowhere (I can’t blame the prosecution for not going along with it, see the guy’s record below) and Crummel kept his mouth shut to the end.

The guy’s child-molesting exploits went back to the early sixties at least, and he was in all probability a serial killer. He confessed to another child’s murder in 1967 and was convicted in 1983, but the conviction was later overturned because of ineffective counsel and he pleaded guilty to kidnapping instead. Crummel also kidnapped and molested another kid and then beat him senseless and left him for dead. (He was facing thirty years for that stunt, but of course he got out in five…) Him “discovering” his own homicide victim’s remains is particularly brazen and creepy. Suppose he hadn’t done that? Jamey might even be listed on Charley if Crummel hadn’t decided to play that stupid game with the cops.

I feel very sorry for J.D.’s parents. They live in West Virginia now and his mom has advanced lung cancer — meaning she’s pretty much dying. I wonder if she believes she’ll see her son on the “other side.”

Articles about James Crummel re: J.D. Phillips
Closure eludes parents of missing Big Bear Lake boy*
Convicted killer James Lee Crummel commits suicide before disclosing info in San Bernardino cold case

Articles about Crummel in general
Child molester who hanged himself called ‘most evil person’
Boy’s Killer Hangs Himself At San Quentin “He remains a suspect in the disappearances of two other boys.” Who is the second one?
Inmate facing execution in O.C. case commits suicide in San Quentin
Calif. death row inmate convicted of killing 13-year-old boy found hanging in his cell
O.C. child killer’s twisted road to death row (very thorough and horrifying)

*About the first article link: courtesy photo! COURTESY PHOTO!? More like stolen photo. The photo was taken from Charley. I know because I cropped and enhanced the original NCMEC one, which has a weird bluish tint. If you look at J.D.’s Charley Project picture side by side with the SB Sun photo you’ll see they’re identical. I don’t mind them using pictures off my site, but “courtesy photo” implies that they showed some courtesy: like, asked me, or credited me. They did neither. Muttergrumble.

15 thoughts on “Suspect in Jack Phillips’s case commits suicide

  1. Saffy June 3, 2012 / 10:03 pm

    I read about that…it really is too bad that no one will ever know, and I wonder why this man didn’t just confess and lead them to the body. He had nothing to lose, since he was going to be executed at some point. He probably very likely was the killer of this child. But some crimes, alas, remain unsolved and we will probably never know. It’s sad for the family though.. I don’t support the death penalty, i should add, but at least he did go to prison for one of his crimes

    • Meaghan June 3, 2012 / 10:12 pm

      And if he really did put J.D.’s body in the ocean like they think, the probability of it being found is round-about zero. 😦

  2. Princess Shantae June 3, 2012 / 11:34 pm

    If he hadn’t killed himself he would of lived out his natural life in prison. The death penalty is the closest thing to a guarantee of life in prison that you can get, especially in CA where they hardly ever carry it out.

    • Meaghan June 3, 2012 / 11:36 pm

      A commenter on one of the articles said something like, “The greatest thing James Crummel will ever give society is the daisies that will grow on his grave.” Amen!

  3. Kim June 4, 2012 / 2:08 am

    I saw a show on this murder a few months ago. Sadly fascinating he indirectly sort of turned himself in by “finding” the remains. Sick bastard.

    • Meaghan June 4, 2012 / 3:27 am

      Imagining the police, when the skull was identified: “So, what are the chances that the guy who randomly stumbled across the skull just happens to be a neighbor of Jamey’s with an arrest record a mile long for violent and sexual offenses?”

  4. Jennie June 4, 2012 / 8:51 am

    Am I right in saying that if Crummel had served the full thirty, Jamey Trotter would still be alive? He murdered him after getting out of prison twenty-five years early, correct?

    If so, heartbreaking and utterly maddening doesn’t even begin to cover it.

  5. Crystal June 4, 2012 / 10:17 am

    I think the second boy is Jeffrey Vargo of Anaheim. They found his body a day after he went missing and Crummel is the prime suspect.

    • Meaghan June 5, 2012 / 6:54 am

      But wouldn’t “disappearances” imply that they were still missing?

  6. optionstrades June 6, 2012 / 4:07 am

    Crummel “discovered” Jamey Trotter’ s bones on Crummels own birthday… a bold and sick s.o.b…

  7. Crystal June 6, 2012 / 8:11 am

    It was this boldness that finally bit him in the ass. The murder of Trotter is what finally put the POS away for good (until he staged his own necktie party).

    Good for Jamey.

  8. meyah June 7, 2012 / 5:19 pm

    I was surprised too I had always assumed he got lost in the wilderness.

  9. Amanda Withington June 12, 2012 / 9:13 am

    To bad he decided to take the easy way out! Sick son Of a Bi**c How in the heck do u get an electrical cord in prison anyways? I mean obviously the prisoners that are sentenced to life are going to look for a way out weather it’s taking their own life, I hope he was haunted by all the people he murdered and harmed.. He WAS a waste of space and deserved to die. But I wish he had to suffer being locked up, and hopefully inmates were against his crimes and made him pay everyday until he decided to take his own life.. My heart goes out to all the parents who lost their babies to this psychotic piece of garbage.. And I wish this young boys mother fights until she can’t fight anymore. Cancer is such a terrible disease I wish someone finds a cure soon it seems so many wonderful/loving people that deserve to live end up getting taken away from us to soon.. May you rest in piece little boy and how ever many other children he murdered.. ♥♥

    • Meaghan June 12, 2012 / 2:53 pm

      Apparently the cord was from his TV. Death row prisoners are allowed to have TVs and the like, as long as they’re not on suicide watch. You’ve got to give them something to do with themselves or they become completely unmanageable.

      I highly doubt the man was in the least bit bothered by memories of his victims. Psychopaths don’t feel guilty about anything.

  10. Kevin April 30, 2017 / 3:12 pm

    Some people say there is no true evil, that ever one can be redeemed. James Crummel proved otherwise. May he forever rot in hell.

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