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Man who fatally shot college-bound girl on prom night gets parole

October 19, 2011 |  3:38 pm

A man who shot a 17-year-old La Crescenta high school girl to death after her prom night celebration has been granted parole despite opposition from the Orange County district attorney’s office.

Paul Crowder has been in prison for nearly 20 years for fatally shooting Berlyn Cosman, a high-achieving student who had earned a college basketball scholarship to Missouri Western State University.

Crowder was granted parole last year but then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reversed that decision. Gov. Jerry Brown would have the same discretion.

After celebrating prom night in Universal City, Cosman was attending a prom night party at the Sterling Crown Suites in Anaheim in June 1991 when Crowder showed up with beer and two guns, prosecutors said.

He was 19 at the time and not a student, but he was acquainted with the victim's boyfriend.

Authorities said Crowder got drunk at the post-prom party, waved around a gun and threatened to shoot one of the parties.

Later in the evening, when Crowder could not find a ride home, he asked to spend the night with the 17-year-old, but she refused.

Later, prosecutors said, Crowder came back into the girl’s room, pulled out a gun and -– laughing -– shot her as she slept.

Authorities said he fled, hid the gun outside the hotel and went home to take a nap.

That September, Crowder was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison with an additional four years for the personal use of a firearm.

Crowder has insisted that the gun went off accidentally, authorities said.

During his years behind bars, prosecutors said, Crowder has refused to take responsibility for the death of the girl or show remorse.

When he was convicted in 1991, Crowder’s mother said her son had unfairly taken the fall in the shooting.

"He would not hurt anybody, I mean nobody. It was an accident," she said, saying the trial had likely been tainted by the publicity surrounding the shooting.

"They already had him hung in the newspapers," she said. "It's just not fair. It's not fair..."

Orange County prosecutors said they will ask Brown to reverse Crowder’s parole.

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-- Steve Marble

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