Illinois Woman's Search for Answers Leads to 25-Year-Old Homicide

25 years ago this May, a homeless man was beaten to death in Wichita Falls by another homeless man. 
    The victim was soon forgotten by just about everyone -- even his family...     
    Until a woman in Illinois began to wonder if her father was alive.
    Some 50 letters and many phone calls later,  the woman found out it was too late... And her findings would only leave her with more questions.
   This is the story of a long- lost father ... and a daughter who wanted to know why a jury never  got to decide if his killer should have to pay.
    This woman's parents divorced when she was two, and she lost contact with her father.
    At 16, she visited him in prison in Huntsville.
    They lost touch  ... and this year, she decided to try to find him again ... but found out he was dead.
    We tracked down the man who admitted to killing her father ...
    He's living at a retirement facility in Abilene, where he's on breathing machines for health problems.
    The memory of that day -- May 29th, 987 -- bothered Larry Hoffman for years.  But now, he says, he rarely thinks about it:
   "I've put that in my past ... you people brought it up."
   But Prentice "Jack" Crouch's daughter, Cathy McClure of Illinois, is haunted by questions about the father she barely knew. 
   "I just want to know what's going on with the system.  Why the ball dropped, why wasn't it pursued."
   "I actually was settin' over there by a grain elevator by the railroad track. And I had a bottle of vodka ... Jack come up, & he wanted a drink. And I says -- I wasn't going to give him no drink.  He had a little verbal argument with me -- he had a reputation around town, he did a lot of fighting -- you know, drinking, carrying on."
    Hoffman says Crouch left -- but threatened to return --
   "I just layin up there. Next thing I knew, I got hit on the head with a club! It was like a tree branch thing, we found out later on. And it was jack. And the fight was on. That's all I know -- we just had a fight. And after it was over, he was laying on the ground, & ... I thought he was just knocked out or something -- I couldn't wake him up."
    According to the arrest affidavits, a witness saw Hoffman in the dock area of the Parker-Mayo Grain Elevator here on 6th Street.  The witness said Hoffman was repeatedly hitting and kicking crouch in the face -- and that crouch was defenseless.
   "Ma'am, I really don't know. I don't know. I'm a small man. I'm a small man. I'm a little guy. And -- you know, somebody jumps on you like that, what are you going to do? It was just a fight. And ended up in a very bad situation."
    Hoffman says he walked to a liquor store at 7th and Eastside and had someone call police.
        The affidavit says Hoffman had no physical injuries -- except cuts on his hands. Hoffman insists he suffered a head injury when crouch allegedly him with a tree branch. 
   "It's just a bad deal, ma'am. I just wish you wouldn't have brought it up."
   Police arrested Hoffman and charged him with murder, haying he "intentionally and knowingly" caused the death of Crouch by "intending to cause serious bodily injury."  Hoffman gave a statement admitting that he beat Crouch.
   "He actually fought me! He hit me! You know, it was self-defense!  He's the one who had the weapon! I didn't have no weapon on me!"
   On August 5th, 1987, a Grand Jury no-billed Hoffman ... meaning, the Grand Jury didn't believe there was enough evidence to proceed with a trial.
   "I mean, you have a gentleman who's confessed to murder -- why isn't that enough evidence??"
   "Well, Jack had quite a reputation in that town -- because he snuck up on other people."
   "How do I know, or how does he public know, that this guy wouldn't do it again to somebody else??"
    Hoffman has a message for Crouch's daughter:
   "I'm just sorry, ma'am, that it happened. There's ... I don't think there's anything I can say ... I had a long talk with a priest, & ... I feel that ... I feel that God's given me an -- I just hope anybody that it affected could take it in their heart to forgive me ... I'm at the end of my days, ma'am. I don't have long left here on this earth. I just hope that -- I'll be in a state of grace when I go."
    We talked to a former police officer who was on the scene in 1987.
    He vaguely remembers this case.
   He didn't wish to talk on camera -- but he did say he believes the case was closed too soon.

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