Two decades ago, 20-year-old San Luis Obispo resident Aundria Crawford was kidnapped, tortured, raped and murdered by serial killer Rex Krebs. She was the second of his two victims.
Now, her mother Gail Crawford is establishing a scholarship fund to help victims of sexual abuse, saying that “Aundria needs to be remembered and remind everyone what monsters are still out there.”
Gail Crawford is coordinating the fund with Aundria’s boyfriend at the time, Josh Beene, who still lives in SLO — and with whom she has remained in touch.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the drive’s GoFundMe account had reached $4,100 of a $5,000 goal.
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Krebs was convicted in 2001 of killing Crawford and 20-year-old Rachel Newhouse. He was given the death penalty and sent to San Quentin, where all of California’s 737 death row inmates are housed. (This week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a moratorium on executions during his term.)
“I’m still in mourning and it just doesn’t go away,” Gail Crawford said in a phone interview with The Tribune. “This time of year, and around her birthday in July, it’s extremely hard.”
Aundria Crawford was kidnapped on March 11, 1999; Monday marked the 20th anniversary of that tragic day.
The attack came four months after Newhouse, a Cal Poly student from Orange County, was ambushed and abducted while crossing the Jennifer Street Bridge on Nov. 12, 1998, on her way home from the downtown bar Tortilla Flats.
Krebs, who worked at 84 Lumber in San Luis Obispo, was arrested on March 20, 1999, for a parole violation, but it would be another month before the bodies of the two women were discovered buried in shallow graves behind his See Canyon home.
“It’s a little tough every time I have to bring up old memories, but at the same time she was a wonderful person,” Beene told The Tribune in a phone interview. “I don’t want to forget her, and I don’t want other people to forget her.”
Beene said he hopes the fund will help Gail Crawford to heal emotionally, by channeling energies toward a positive outlet.
Gail Crawford, 65, of Fresno, said that she planned to start a scholarship fund nearly two decades ago in the wake of her daughter’s tragedy. But she couldn’t pull together the resources back then to make it happen, and the idea fizzled.
Crawford said GoFundMe has made setting up the fund easier than in the past. She said that she has limited resources but was able to contribute $250 to the fund of her own money to the fund.
“I hope it will be a fund that will help people long into the future,” Crawford said.
Scholarship recipients could be students in San Luis Obispo and Fresno, where Aundria grew up, and her mother is working with schools, including Cuesta College, to set up awards for students.
Crawford told The Tribune that her daughter would have been 40 years old if she were alive today.
She said her daughter was a friendly, motivated young woman who was taking courses in interior design at Cuesta College and in animal husbandry in Cal Poly’s extension program in 1999.
Aundria had dreams of starting a family and living on a Wyoming ranch with her own design business, her mother said.
“She loved babies, the ballet, big trucks and life,” Crawford wrote on GoFundMe.
Beene, also originally from Fresno, said Aundria was a rare type of person, and very positive.
“She was one of the most unique gals I’ve met,” Beene said. “She worked on her own cars. She liked country music and big trucks. But she also liked ballet, the arts and flowers. She could be a tomboy but also do girlie type of things.”
A terrifying crime
Before Krebs was caught by a suspicious parole officer and later confessed during an investigation, the kidnappings of the two women sent a wave of fear through the SLO community in late 1998 and 1999.
His story has been told in five separate documentaries, including “Evil Talks: Chilling Confessions,” released last year by the true-crime network Investigation Discovery.
Krebs stalked Aundria at her Branch Street duplex before breaking into her apartment, abducting her and taking her to his See Canyon home in the Avila Valley.
Beene said that Aundria had invited him over to watch a television show about 9 p.m. on the night she went missing. He said they spent most nights together and told her he’d get back to her after doing some homework.
Beene called her about an hour later telling her he was too tired and he’d see her in the morning.
“I had some guilt,” Beene said. “It took me some time to deal with that. It took me awhile to come to the realization that I couldn’t have done anything about it.”
Beene, who was studying agriculture business at Cal Poly, said for about a year he struggled with his studies and concentrating. The university was understanding and allowed him to retake tests and adjust academically, but his grades still slipped.
“I was in shock,” Beene said. “I was numb for maybe the first year. It took me close to a year to come out of that. I got really into riding my motorcycle riding, and because of the concentration that takes, it helped because my mind wouldn’t wander while I was riding.”
“Two weeks before (she was kidnapped), Aundria said a man appeared in the window of her back door,” Gail Crawford said. “Krebs later said it wasn’t him.. But that experience scared Aundria so much she was planning to move back home Fresno.”
Gail Crawford said preparations and packing for the move were already underway.
Krebs confessed to the crimes, but Beene said he doesn’t believe the convicted killer told the whole story about what happened.
Aundria was Gail Crawford’s only child.
“She will be gone now for almost 20 years and yet it still feels like yesterday when I discovered her missing when she did not call me or answer her pager,” Crawford wrote.