Details of Disappearance
Crystal was last seen at approximately 5:30 p.m. at her family's residence in Pick Wick Apartments in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on June 13, 1996. The apartment complex is located on West Interstate 240. Crystal was seen near the swimming pool, which is on the south side of the complex. Her hair was tied up in a bun at the time. Crystal has never been heard from again.
Crystal's stepfather, Benjamin Harry Crider Jr., was considered a suspect in her disappearance from the onset of the investigation. Photographs of him are posted below this case summary. Authorities noticed injuries on Benjamin's body on June 14, 1996, the day following Crystal's disappearance. Benjamin appeared to have human bite marks on one of his arms and bruises on one of his shoulders. He claimed he sustained the injuries while replacing the brakes on the car owned by his wife and Crystal's mother, Tammi Jean Crider. Investigators took photographs of Benjamin's injuries and also examined Tammi's vehicle. Authorities stated that there was nothing in the car's brake system which would have inflicted the type of injuries they observed on Benjamin's body.
Crystal's younger half-brother came forward two weeks after Crystal vanished and told authorties that he wandered into his parents' bedroom on June 13 after overhearing Benjamin and Tammi arguing. The child claimed he saw Crystal lying motionless in the room. Tammi escorted him out of the apartment and took him shopping afterwards. When they returned, Crystal had disappeared. Tammi denied her son's statements. She has never been charged in connection with her daughter's case.
Benjamin was employed as a registered nurse for the Oklahoma State Health Department at the time Crystal vanished. Authorities believe he carried her body to his department vehicle inside of a garment bag while Tammi and their son were at the store on June 13, then disposed of Crystal's remains. Benjamin told authorities that he left their residence at approximately 4:30 p.m. on June 13 to return his vehicle to the Health Department. The trip from Pick Wick Apartments to the department takes 15 minutes; Benjamin claimed he returned to the apartment at approximately 6:30 p.m. two hours later. Authorities maintained that he could not satisfactorily explain his whereabouts during the unaccounted time period. Benjamin's supervisor at the Health Department told investigators that Benjamin attended a seminar on June 13 and handed in a travel voucher with an additional 100 miles added to his authorized driving distance. Tammi told investigators she noticed Benjamin purchased a new garment bag the day after Crystal disappeared, which supported law enforcement's theory that Benjamin carried Crystal's body in his old garment bag.
DNA evidence was discovered inside Benjamin's Health Department vehicle which was consistent with Crystal's blood type. Blood stains were also located on the carpet, a table leg, a towel, jeans, a brassiere and on a bedspread inside the family's apartment. An empty bottle of hydrogen peroxide was discovered inside the residence as well. The peroxide could have been used to clean additional blood stains from the home.
Tammi and Crystal's biological father both took polygraph tests after Crystal vanished. Tammi was asked whether she had caused Crystal to disappear, whether she had worked in collusion with someone else to cause Crystal to disappear, or if she could take investigators to where Crystal was. She answered no to all three questions and failed the test; her results showed high levels of deception. Benjamin agreed to take the test, but recanted later and refused to participate. The Criders' two other children were removed from their home by Oklahoma Department Of Human Services (DHS) shortly after Crystal's disappearance in 1996. Tammi and Benjamin separated afterwards.
Investigation revealed that DHS had received five complaints regarding Crystal's welfare from her infancy in 1984 until 1991, five years prior to her disappearance. The allegations of abuse detailed in the complaints centered around the caregivers employed by Tammi to watch Crystal. The reports insinuated that Tammi was "neglectful" of Crystal by allegedly ignoring the caregivers' problems. The DHS complaints were either dismissed due to lack of evidence or ruled out entirely. An unidentified witness told DHS that Crystal was allowed to carry cigarette lighters in the early 1990s and that the child may have been responsible for igniting several fires in her neighborhood at the time due to her allegedly unsupervised home atmosphere. DHS could not discover any evidence regarding the claim and the complaint was dismissed.
DHS did begin a new investigation into the Criders' children's welfare following Crystal's 1996 disappearance. Benjamin was charged with Crystal's murder in 1998 and was convicted of the charge later that same year. He was sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors believe he came home from work and found Crystal in the master bathroom shower, which was against the rules, and that they argued and he killed her.
In October 2001, Benjamin's conviction in Crystal's death was struck down by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. He was retried in October 2004, and Tammi testified against him. The judge declared a mistrial. In September 2005, while awaiting his third trial, Benjamin admitted to causing Crystal's death. He said he struck her in anger and she died, and that he did not intend to kill her. Benjamin pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He was sentenced to ten years in prison, but since he had already been incarcerated for nine years, he was released only a short time after making the plea. Prosecutors stated they were unhappy with the arrangement, but they decided to agree to it because there was not enough evidence to convict Benjamin of murder. When investigators asked Benjamin where Crystal's body was, he said he didn't know. He died of a heart attack in Kentucky in 2008, at the age of 49.
Crystal's body has never been located. Foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.
Left: Benjamin Crider in 2000; Right: Benjamin Crider in 2005