High court orders new trial in Richmond murder case

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Supreme Court reversed the murder conviction of a Richmond man convicted of killing his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter.

Ronald Crabtree, who was sentenced to 45 years in prison in the death of Callie Robinson, will get a new trial. The state Supreme Court said in a 5-2 ruling Thursday that he deserved a new trial because the jury was not instructed that Crabtree, 29, could be convicted of lesser charges than murder.

Crabtree lived in Richmond with then-girlfriend Verona Brinegar; Brinegar's 2-year-old daughter, Callie; and another child of Brinegar. On Aug. 9, 2007, Callie died of a series of injuries that included multiple burns all over her body, bruises on her scalp and ears, and abrasions on her face that were consistent with smothering.

Medical evidence later showed that Callie might have been burned with cigarettes on her legs, feet, toes and backside.

Crabtree and Brinegar's defense included testimony that Callie had been hurt by another child in the days preceding her death. The defense also said Crabtree had wrapped Callie in a sleeping bag on the day of her death to help her sleep better, which could have unintentionally caused Callie's death.

Crabtree's attorneys had requested that the judge allow the jury to consider the lesser charges of manslaughter and reckless homicide, but the judge denied the request.

"Although the facts of this case are admittedly abhorrent, we conclude that Crabtree should have received a second-degree manslaughter instruction and, therefore is entitled to a new trial," the ruling said.

The court said a juror could have had reasonable doubt that Crabtree was guilty of wanton murder yet believe that Crabtree was guilty of manslaughter.

Brinegar also was convicted of murder and criminal abuse.