Family of murdered girl fights to strengthen laws to protect dating teens

by: Greg Suskin Updated:


LANCASTER, S.C. - Tanner Crolley, 18, sits in jail in Lancaster County, accused of shooting his ex-girlfriend, on Dec. 13.

 Robert and Jessica Landry are now fighting to change a law that might have saved her life.

Deputies said Crolley shot and killed Sierra Landry after she refused to get back together with him.

 Sierra Landry dreamed of being a model, but she had gotten into an abusive relationship with Crolley, who her family said was dangerous.

 Her stepmother Jessica Landry had told her so, with eerie truth in the months before her death.

 "I said, ‘If you don't wake up and see these signs, that boy is going be the death of you,’" she said.

  Last month, those words became literal, when Sierra Landry was at a friend's house on John Everall Road, when her ex-boyfriend showed up angry, and with gun.

 Deputies said Crolley shot Landry in the face and killed her.   

 Deputies found him walking along the road three hours later and arrested him.

 Her father Robert Landry told Channel 9, none of the family can explain how to deal with such a tragedy.

 ''It's still hard to wake up in the mornings, and not start with a tear," he said.  "The worst days are when everything you see reminds you of your daughter."

 Jessica Landry said Crolley was controlling and abusive from the beginning, both verbally and physically.  She said her stepdaughter showed her a bruise on her leg where Crolley hit her with a board.  After going back to him time and time again, she said Sierra Landry was finally determined to leave him.

 "She was ready. She was done, I know that," she said.  

 Jessica Landry said when Crolley shot her outside her friend's home, he said, "If you won't love me, you won't love anyone."

The family is pushing for changes to South Carolina law, hoping to protect other teens.

They want to call it Sierra's Law.

Their proposal includes broadening access to orders of protection and reads:

"We the people come together and ask that South Carolina laws be revised to the following:
1. Orders of protection are granted to minors 16 years of age and older without parental or guardian consent against violent abusers in a dating relationship, however parents or guardian will be notified within a 24-hour period.
2. Minors under the age of 16 are allowed to obtain an OP with parental or guardian consent.
3. Abusers with a history of domestic violence will be placed on a registry for publication and acknowledgment to the community and state.
4. Abusers of teen-dating violence will not be eligible for pre-trial intervention or combined with any other charges.
5. People in dating relationships, including individuals in same sex relationships able to obtain OPs.
6. Allow victims of stalking and harassment access to OPs
7. Include Teen Dating Violence Awareness as a part of the sexual education program schools offer."

Sierra Laundry's cousin Rebecca Polston said other states have enacted similar laws, and this could make a difference.

"If they would've had some of these laws in place before, we believe that it could save lives. We do," she said.

A national organization that follows domestic violence statistics gave South Carolina an "F" on laws that address teen dating abuse.

The Landrys hope their personal tragedy can be a catalyst for change.

Robert Landry said he feels like he has to act.

"We can do something in our daughter's behalf, as well as for teenagers and kids throughout the nation," he said.

Jessica Landry said the family already has more than 1,000 names on a petition that they plan to send to lawmakers.

"I don't want just enough signatures. I want signatures that will say, ‘Look there is an issue,’ and we can't do it without everybody's help," she said.

He hopes if South Carolina passes a tougher law, other states will follow suit.

Channel 9 did go by the suspect Crolley's home for comment but they declined.

Find the petition by following this link.