Don Crowder, a distinguished defense attorney, significantly influenced one of Texas’s most sensational murder trials, defending Candy Montgomery, who used an ax to kill her friend Betty Gore in 1980. Crowder’s successful argument of self-defense led to Montgomery’s acquittal of murder. Despite this triumph, Crowder’s life eventually descended into darkness, culminating in his tragic suicide in 1998. Several factors may have contributed to this distressing decision.

Personal Struggles and Substance Abuse

Crowder’s early life was marked by adversity, navigating poverty and witnessing domestic violence. Struggling with dyslexia, he defied the odds through sports excellence, earning the moniker “Crazy Crowder” as a football standout at Southern Methodist University.

His passion extended to law and politics, graduating in 1970 and co-founding a firm with friend Jim Mattox, who later became Texas’s attorney general. Engaging in civil cases, Crowder ventured into politics, running for governor in 1986 and securing over 11% of the votes.

However, a shadow loomed over Crowder’s success. Wrestling with depression and anxiety, he turned to alcohol and cocaine for solace, compounded by marital issues and extramarital affairs. The tragic death of his brother Barry in a 1992 car accident deepened his emotional turmoil, triggering guilt and self-blame.

Crowder’s struggles intensified, leading to the revocation of his law license in 1994 and multiple arrests for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Overwhelmed by shame, he withdrew from friends and family, culminating in a suicide attempt on his 56th birthday when he survived a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest.

Professional Controversy and Guilt

Crowder’s most renowned case also became his most contentious. Tasked with representing Candy Montgomery, who openly admitted to the brutal ax murder of her friend Betty Gore following an affair with Gore’s husband, Crowder found himself at the center of a sensational and nationally spotlighted trial. In his defense, Crowder asserted that Montgomery acted in self-defense, contending that Gore had attacked her with the ax and depicting her as a mentally unstable woman who neglected family responsibilities.

Despite public shock, Crowder’s strategy succeeded, securing Montgomery’s acquittal of murder charges. Nevertheless, Crowder faced vehement criticism and public backlash for his defense tactics, with accusations of evidence manipulation and exploitation of Gore’s character. The Gore family, grappling with devastation, squarely blamed Crowder for enabling a confessed murderer’s freedom.

Reflecting on the case, Crowder acknowledged a mix of emotions. While proud of his legal acumen, he expressed sorrow for the Gore family. He admitted grappling with doubts, questioning the ethical implications of his actions and whether he inadvertently contributed to a miscarriage of justice. The case haunted him, leading to recurring nightmares and lingering remorse over the years.

Final Act

On November 10, 1998, Crowder tragically took his own life at his residence in McKinney, Texas. In a poignant note he left behind, he expressed profound love for those close to him but conveyed an overwhelming inability to endure his struggles any longer. He offered apologies for his mistakes and sought forgiveness.

Crowder’s suicide reverberated with shock and sadness among those who had known him. His legacy as a brilliant lawyer, charismatic politician, and steadfast friend remained, yet it was underscored by the recognition of the inner turmoil he grappled with, ultimately succumbing to demons that proved insurmountable.

Crowder’s life serves as a poignant reminder that suicide can impact anyone, irrespective of their accomplishments or societal standing. It underscores that suicide is not a typical response to life’s challenges; rather, it signals extreme distress that demands immediate support and intervention.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 (for assistance in Spanish, dial 988) 1. The Lifeline offers 24-hour, confidential assistance to those facing suicidal crisis or emotional distress 2. Additionally, you can visit the World Health Organization website for comprehensive information on suicide prevention 3. Always remember, you are not alone, and hope exists.