Janice Kay Crowley’s death was likely a tragic accident, Astoria Police said.

The announcement came as officers wrapped up a two-month long investigation that they hope will bring closure to Crowley’s five children and the rest of her family.

But the investigation into the Astoria woman’s death will probably never close. It remains open because of a two-hour window that police don’t have answers for – and the silence of a key person in Crowley’s life.

“In our opinion, this is heavily weighted toward being an accident,” Astoria Police Chief Peter Curzon said. “The biggest concern that we have is that the husband, Steven, made a very brief statement and then refused to talk to us, after speaking with an attorney. So we have a gap in the knowledge about the activities surrounding her death.”

About 5 a.m. on Aug. 3, Astoria Police were called to a home in Alderbrook. Crowley had fallen more than 25 feet from a third-story balcony.

Police have been investigating her death to determine whether it was suicide, homicide or accidental.

Detective Andrew Randall said, contrary to public opinion, police cannot force Crowley’s husband to cooperate. And without his assistance, there remains a two-hour gap in the police investigation – from 3 a.m. up until the fall occurred, around 5 a.m.

Without that gap filled in, the case cannot be closed and her cause of death is still undetermined.

“The Astoria Police Department knows the cause of (Crowley’s) death, but the manner and circumstances leading to that tragedy remain unknown,” Curzon said. “While we absolutely respect the rights of our citizens, it is unfortunate that a cloud of suspicion remains a barrier to closure for the family and friends of Janice.

“I am satisfied that we have conducted as thorough of an investigation as possible but this case will remain open pending any further information.”

Family highlights woman’s values

Crowley’s family hopes people will remember Crowley for how she lived, not how she died. Although Crowley may have been battling demons, she lived with purpose and grace, and a generous and giving heart, her sister Darlene Borland said in an interview Wednesday.

“Everyone only sees one side of Janice through the newspapers and police reports and all of the fiascos at their house. But there was another side of her. She was a really good person. She was nice. She was a great cook, and she would do anything – she would take in some kids that were having a hard time with their families, she would feed them – She used to read to the kids every night, their stories. Every night. Made me feel guilty,” Borland said with a smile.

Borland, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, and her husband Dave, traveled from Yelm, Wash., to sit down with police to hear the results of the investigation.

Dave Borland also spoke about his sister-in-law’s legacy and how he will remember her.

“Sure, the last couple of years had been kind of rough, but she was a great person. She really was,” Dave Borland said. “We had some good times and some good laughs, and it’s just a tragedy all the way around. Frankly, I miss her. She was fun to be around. And you can’t say that about everybody. She’ll be missed.

“I think the chief hit it right on that she was dealing with some demons in the last year, but the Janice I knew for so very long was just a great gal. So it’s just a tragedy, that’s all.”

The Borlands both said the news of Crowley’s death came as a total shock when they were told by a neighbor.

Crowley was a loving, giving and caring person, who would make Christmas gifts for local children to make their holiday special, Borland said.

As for how Crowley’s children are coping with the loss of their mother, Borland says they have questions. For Crowley’s 16-year-old daughter, especially, the transition into adulthood will be a difficult one, with only a dad and three brothers  – all men – in her life, he said.

Crowley’s oldest daughter Mandy, who lives in Texas, as well as Crowley’s parents, were linked in by phone to the conference with police and Crowley’s sisters, Borland and Debbie Roberts and her husband Jim.

The Roberts declined to speak with the media. They left the meeting frustrated by the lack of closure.

Call for assistance

Darlene Borland said the community can help.

“For closure for us, and for the kids, I think it would be important if Steve (Crowley) could please make a statement so we can have closure,” she said. Darlene Borland also asked the community to step forward in offering emotional support to the Crowley children, who will have a difficult time, especially with the holidays approaching.

Police do not believe Crowley committed suicide. Toxicology results showed she had almost three times the legal limit of alcohol in her system, as well as prescription drugs. The prescriptions were all prescribed for her by her doctor, however, but may have had an adverse reaction with the alcohol and intensified the side effects, investigators said.

But Crowley had survived a fall from that balcony before. In 2009, she fractured her ankle in a similar incident. The way she landed this time – on an irrigation pipe – fractured her neck, killing her almost instantly.

“She had survived a fall from that height before, so in terms of us thinking about suicide, that would be highly unlikely. She would not expect to die from that fall,” said Dr. JoAnn Stefanelli, with the Clatsop County District Attorney’s office. “It was just a very, very unlucky landing that she happened to land where she shouldn’t have landed. If she had landed six inches in the other direction, she would have survived the fall.”

Investigators believe she fell from leaning over or climbed over the 3-foot railing.

Crowley also had fractured ribs and a lacerated liver, not consistant with being pushed or jumping.

There was no defensive wound of any kind on her body, so investigators do not believe she died at the hands of someone else.

“She’s in a better place, I know that,” Darlene Borland said. “She had her faith in Jesus so I know she’s in a better place.”

Tags