Driver suspected of killing a jogger near LMU had been on the lam for four years

By Gary Walker

Police displayed photos of the victim and the accused during the
press conference in Westchester
Photo by Gary Walker

On Jan. 9, 2014, a speeding car struck and killed a jogger near the Lincoln Boulevard entrance to Loyola Marymount University.

Now, after four years of searching, the LAPD’s Major Crimes Division has announced they’ve captured the woman suspected of driving the car that ended Playa Vista resident Paul Grover’s life.

At a Jan. 24 press conference across from Bluff Trail Park in Westchester — mere feet away from the scene of the crime — police announced the arrest of Brittnee Crawford, 27, on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run. Crawford’s boyfriend, 26-year-old Joshua Walker, was also arrested and has been charged with being an accessory after the fact.

Police arrested both suspects at their home in Perris, near Moreno Valley, on Jan. 16.

Grover, 62, was out jogging at approximately 4:15 a.m. when he was struck by a southbound vehicle. He died from his injuries the following day.

LAPD West Traffic Bureau Officer Martha Dominguez, the case’s initial investigator, said the car veered off the roadway near LMU Drive and sheered a light pole before colliding with Grover.

Capt. Robert Long of the LAPD’s Major Crimes Divisions told reporters that witnesses saw Crawford’s vehicle hit Grover and that Crawford allegedly stopped and volunteered to take the badly injured Grover to the hospital while one of the witnesses waited for police and paramedics to arrive.

“As the police arrived, Ms. Crawford fled the scene on foot,” said Long, a former Pacific Division captain.

A witness also said Crawford appeared to be “highly intoxicated” when she stopped to check on Grover, Long said.

LAPD’s Fugitive Task Force took over the investigation after police learned Crawford had left California. In 2016, the case was turned over to Major Crimes.

LAPD Det. James Dickson, the lead detective on the case, said police were able to confirm Crawford as the driver
of the car that struck and killed Grover through witness statements and forensic evidence found in the car, which they were able to trace to her. Last February, police obtained a warrant to arrest Crawford, who had left California for Nevada.

“Last week we received information that Ms. Crawford was back in California and our detectives arrested Ms. Crawford and Mr. Walker,” Long said.

Dickson said Walker impeded the investigation by “providing false information about the suspect’s whereabouts.”

Grover ran P.K. Grover Insurance Services in Playa Vista from 2004 until 2006.

Reached at her home in Glyndon, Minn., Grover’s sister Susan Offcutt credited investigators for their persistence.

“If it wasn’t for them,” she said, “I don’t know if we would have ever found out who was responsible.”

Offcut, 71, said she had been going through old photographs of her younger brother, triggering a flood of fond memories.

“He was such an avid runner and liked to stay physically fit. He played the piano and rode elephants in India,” she recalled.

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s website, Walker is scheduled to appear at the Airport Courthouse in Westchester on Feb. 8. Crawford does not have a court date yet. Both are free on bail.

Dominguez, who kept Offcutt updated on her brother’s case, said “It’s a very satisfying result for us and it’s nice to have a resource like Major Crimes who can carry the baton forward. For us, we often have other cases and we don’t always have the resources to dedicate to one particular case.

“Even after the Fugitive Task Force and Major Crimes took over the case, I still kept this on my desk,” she added, tapping the thick case folder.

Long said the diligence displayed by the detectives of Major Crimes and West Traffic in tracking down Crawford over four years was exemplary.

“We want the public to know that we don’t give up on these cases,” he said.

gary@argonautnews.com

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