Dead man waiting

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comFebruary 10, 2010 

In the summer of 2001, a sheriff's deputy dropped Rex Krebs off at San Quentin State Prison with a sardonic message.

"Hey, Rex," he said just before leaving. "Have a nice day." The statement was ironic in a couple of ways: A fleeing Krebs

had said the same thing to a woman he'd just raped in 1987. Also, San Quentin is home to California's death row.

Yet, as grim as his prospects are as a condemned prisoner, Krebs' death won't be sudden. And while he's alive -- the average death row inmate in California lives 17.5 years upon arriving at San Quentin--he will continue to enjoy some of the pleasures he'd known before he was sentenced to death eight years ago.

"Mostly, he watches sports, I guess," said his mother, Connie Ridley, who communicates with her son through mail and occasional phone calls.

Since he was arrested in San Luis Obispo 10 years ago on suspicion of killing college students Rachel Newhouse and Aundria Crawford -- and later found guilty of the murders--Krebs has repeatedly denied Tribune requests for an interview. However, those who know him offered a glimpse of what his life is like now.

And while some old and new acquaintances continue to reach out to him, not everyone from his past wants to stay in touch.

"My daughter told me he was wondering about me, wondering about my address and wanting to write me," said Allan Krebs, his father. "And I said, 'Why?' As much as I love him, I detest him just as much."continued...Relationships by mail

Krebs, now 43, was sentenced to death in July 2001, after a Monterey County jury recommended capital punishment the previous spring. The jury had heard evidence, including a confession, detailing how Krebs abducted, hog-tied and raped his victims, who were later buried near the home he rented in Avila Valley.

Because his case entailed special circumstances--more than one victim, rape and kidnapping -- he was eligible for the death penalty.

Once sentenced, he was transported to San Quentin, which now houses 665 condemned inmates. Among them are the state's most notorious killers, including serial killer Charles Ng, child killer Richard Allen Davis and gang member Cleamon Johnson, believed to have killed more than 20 people.

Yet, Krebs, who had previously served 10 years on a rape conviction, is no stranger to incarceration. According to prison officials, he has been well-behaved, without incident.

Most of his time is spent alone in a cell, though he is allowed the chance for recreation. While the state doesn't provide televisions, inmates can have them if someone else provides them. Like most inmates, Krebs spends considerable time writing letters.

"He's always got very practical advice--the kind of things you'd want your friends to say," said Lee Edwards, a pen pal from Macon, Ga. "(He says) 'Get over yourself, make a decision and get on.' "

Edwards, one of several pen pals that Krebs corresponds with, wrote the killer a letter after watching "The Monster Inside," a special on the case that airs regularly on the cable television channel A&E.

"I know it sounds kind of strange," Edwards said. "But I just kind of felt -- and I don't want to sound like a religious kook--but I just kind of had it in my mind that I was supposed to send him a letter."

Feeling there were two sides to Krebs, Edwards said, he decided to write, not expecting to hear anything back.

"I didn't know if there was going to be value in corresponding with him," Edwards said.

But after exchanging letters with the convicted killer over the past four or five years, Edwards now values the long-distance friendship and would like to visit Krebs some day.

When asked how he feels about Krebs' crimes, Edwards said, "It's hard to imagine that this is the same person."

Outwardly friendly

Krebs was always known as an affable guy, though. That's why his defense team argued that there were two sides to Krebs: The friendly, outgoing one and the disturbed one who suffered from a psychological disorder called sexual sadism.

One of his original defense attorneys, Bill McLennan, talks to Krebs every six months or so. While they spent two years in court together, they don't talk about the crimes.

"It's just saying hello to someone that you've been through something with," McLennan said.

McLennan didn't want to detail too much of their private conversations. But he and others who know Krebs say the condemned inmate is remorseful.

"Rex has a soul, and Rex knows profoundly that what he did is wrong," Edwards believes. "And he doesn't try to shift that blame on anybody else. He doesn't say, 'This was not my fault -- somebody did this to me and I shouldn't be accountable for it.' It's always, 'I did this.' "

Yet, when he had the opportunity to apologize at trial, Krebs was silent.

"He's not sorry," his father said. "He's sorry he got caught."

More remorse has come from Krebs' family.

"We pray for those girls and their families every day," his mother said. "As well as my son."

While his mother believes in the biblical eye-for-an-eye punishment, she tries not to think about the day her son will be put to death.

"Every once in a while it pops into your brain," Ridley said. "And there will be a tear or two."

Yet, she added, her son knew what he was doing was wrong.

"He done what he done, and punishment is punishment."

While Krebs' father said he still loves his only son, he thinks the death penalty is appropriate.

"If he wasn't my son, I'd say he deserves the death penalty," he said. "So why should I say, no, he doesn't now?"

There's a reasonable chance Krebs won't ever be executed. Of the 78 condemned inmates who have died in California since 1978, only 14 were executed. More inmates have died from natural causes (43) and suicide (16). Five died of other causes, according to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. And, as the condemned population grows, it's taking longer for executions to occur.

There are currently five death row inmates who have exhausted their appeals, but that doesn't include San Luis Obispo County's longest serving condemned inmate. Richard Benson, sentenced to die for killing a Nipomo woman and her three children in 1986, is still on death row 22 years after arriving there.

Having no contact

While some of Krebs' friends and relatives remain in touch, not everyone has chosen to continue communicating with him.

Roslynn Moore, his girlfriend at the time of the murders, kept in touch with him even after he was charged with murder, testifying in court, "I didn't want him to think that I didn't care about him anymore. And I didn't want to judge him."

Moore, who gave birth to Krebs' child sometime after his arrest, continued to stay in touch until roughly a year or two ago, Ridley said.

Moore, contacted by e-mail, is now living with the boy in the San Diego area, where she has married. She declined to comment, only saying that she has been "trying to put my life back together and staying away from crazy people."

Ridley said Krebs occasionally asks if she's heard from Moore. But Ridley said it's best that Krebs doesn't communicate with his son, now 10.

"That child needs a life of his own," she said. "He doesn't need a constant reminder."

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