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Judge issues ruling for Modesto man accused of killing girlfriend with candle holder

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A Stanislaus County judge says there’s sufficient evidence for William Thomas Schendel to stand trial for murder in the death of his girlfriend, Aimee Eddington-Crawford, who was found dead last year in her home near Knights Ferry.

Eddington-Crawford, 40, died from “multiple blunt force injuries to her head,” Stanislaus County forensic pathologist Sung-Ook Baik testified Monday. He said she suffered dozens of cuts on her face and head, along with a skull fracture and brain contusions. She also had what appeared to be defensive wounds on her hands.

She was found dead in her shower about 4 p.m. May 1, 2018, at her home in the 13000 block of Horseshoe Road, several miles east of Oakdale.

Baik said there were indications that she was strangled. He said he found her thyroid broken, four small bruises on her neck and hemorrhaging in both of her eyes.

The forensic pathologist testified that the numerous lacerations he found indicate she was struck on her head with a blunt object.

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William Thomas Schendel is accused of murder in the death of Aimee Eddington-Crawford. Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department

In his closing argument, Deputy Public Defender Jesus Mendoza said the prosecution did not present any evidence to support the allegation of premeditation.

The defense attorney told the judge that the prosecution’s testimony did not demonstrate a motive, and there was no history of violence between the defendant and his girlfriend. He said his client should not be charged with first-degree murder.

Deputy District Attorney Samuel Luzadas said there was evidence of premeditation, and that Schendel “beat her to death with what looks like a candle holder.”

Investigators testified that Schendel left behind a tip of his thumb at the crime scene. Schendel, 55, of Modesto, told his ex-wife in a recorded jailhouse phone call that Eddington-Crawford bit it off during a violent confrontation. Schendel in the phone call claimed he acted in self-defense.

A sheriff’s crime scene technician testified that the thumb tip matched Schendel’s fingerprint, obtained from a state Department of Justice database.

Several hours before Eddington-Crawford’s body was found, Schendel was involved in a crash on Highway 120 in Escalon. Schendel was heading west on the highway when his gray Honda Accord collided with a pickup.

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Aimee Crawford seen here in 2014 during a Santa Pub Crawl, was found deceased in a home near Oakdale, Calif. on May 1st, of this year. William Schendel of Modesto has been charged with her murder. John Westberg jwestberg@modbee.com

The prosecutor said the defendant’s actions after attacking his girlfriend speak loudly about his “consciousness of guilt.” Luzadas argued that Schendel was questioned by a California Highway Patrol officer about the crash, but he never mentioned his injured girlfriend or that he was attacked.

Instead of calling 911 to get medical help for his girlfriend, Schendel left her injured in her shower, Luzadas told the judge.

The defense attorney argued that his client has a constitutional right not to incriminate himself, so he was under no obligation to tell the CHP officer what happened at the woman’s home.

Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova said there was enough evidence presented to provide probable cause that Schendel acted intentionally and with premeditation.

It will be up to a jury to decide whether Schendel is guilty of first-degree murder. He also is charged with an enhancement for using a deadly weapon: the candle holder.

Córdova scheduled Schendel to return to court Aug. 19 for an arraignment hearing. Schendel remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail.

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Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.
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