A former Marine accused of killing his wife pleaded guilty Monday morning, surprising the courtroom and his own attorney with the unexpected plea.
The clerk had just completed reading the charge against Caleb Crew when he softly told the judge that he wanted to plead guilty to strangling his wife, 31-year-old Andrea Crew, and dumping her body in the Occoquan River. He had not been expected to enter a plea at the start of Monday's trial.
Judge John Tran had difficulty hearing Crew at first, but once he realized Crew intended to plead guilty, the judge accepted the plea. Crew could face up to life in prison.
Just minutes earlier, Crew's attorney had argued to exclude some of the more gruesome photos from evidence, seemingly prepared to move ahead with the trial.
After Crew entered his plea, the prosecutor detailed what his case would have shown, while Andrea's mother, who had traveled to Fairfax County from Colombia, sobbed as an interpreter repeated what was being said.
Family friends told News4 last year that the Crews had a strained relationship, and that Caleb had been physically and emotionally abusive. Police were called to the couple's Fairfax, Virginia, home in July 2013 when Andrea said her husband poured motor oil on her head.
On Aug. 7, 2013, the couple attended a court hearing about that incident, during which domestic violence charges against Caleb Crew were dropped. The two were on their way home from the hearing when they got into another dispute, and Andrea said she would call police.
In a chilling recorded confession, given to police even before Andrea's body was found, Caleb Crew told a detective what happened, admitting that he began strangling his wife as they sat in his SUV and argued. He said he "didn't want to deal with another 911 call."
"I grabbed her throat.... I said goodbye," he said. Crew said he lifted his wife's 112-pound body into the back seat. "I started crying but I couldn't stop," he said.
Crew said he found his wife still had a pulse, so he took off he necktie he'd worn to court. "I put the the tie on tightly," he said.
A detective asked, "Why?"
According to the recording, Crew responded, "To finish the job.... There is no way I can stop now."
He left her body in the woods and returned after midnight. He told police he placed Andrea's body in a bag and put a backpack on her to "weigh her down."
Caleb said he then pulled over along Interstate 95 by the Occoquan River and dumped her body over a bridge.
He reported his wife missing the next day. Within days, a fisherman had found her body in the water and Caleb was behind bars.
The couple's two daughters were four years old and 11 months old at the time of Andrea's death. According to reports, the couple had fought about finances the week prior to Andrea's death. She was a native of Colombia and had suggested they move their daughters to South America.
A friend of Andrea Crew said Andrea did not have family in the United States and wanted to stay in the marriage.
Caleb Crew, who grew up in Woodbridge, Virginia, served as a Marine in Afghanistan. He will be sentenced at a later date.
The couple's children are now with Andrea's family in Colombia.