Investigators: Minnesota filmmaker obsessed with conspiracies killed family, himself

- An Apple Valley, Minn. filmmaker had become obsessed with a grim film project he was working on in the months leading up to the murder of his wife and 5-year-old daughter before killing himself, according to police, friends, and family members.  

Apple Valley Police gave the FOX 9 Investigators an exclusive look at the recently completed, year-long investigation into the murder-suicide. 

"Very sad scene, during the holidays, beautiful family, tragic loss,"  said Apple Valley Police Chief, Jon Rechtzigel.

Detectives believe David Crowley shot his wife, Komel, and their 5-year-old daughter, Raniya on December 26, 2014.  Their bodies were discovered three weeks later on January 17, 2015.  

For years David Crowley had worked on a film project called “Gray State,” along with a related documentary, “The Rise.”  A concept trailer for “Gray State,” shows the U.S. Government taking away all citizens' liberties and FEMA turning into a militarized, occupying police force. 

"From all accounts, he was consumed with this film and dark topic conspiracy theories about the fall of society," said Rechtzigel. "If that's all you're working on, it can take you to a bad place."

"It almost embodied him, dictating a lot of his thoughts and outlook on reality," said Danny Mason, Co-Producer of the film project.

Elaborate conspiracy theories on the internet claim the Crowley's were all murdered as part of a government conspiracy. Investigators found no such evidence.  

A disturbing crime scene

The Apple Valley Police case file contains some shocking and disturbing revelations about the crime scene.  Written in blood on a wall above the bodies were the words “Allahu Akbar,” which in Arabic means, “God is the greatest.” Forensic tests reveal it was written in Komel’s blood.

"We believe that was a parting shot. Probably at her (Komel) for having a Muslim past," said Rechtzigel.

Between their bodies, a Koran, with pages torn out, opened to a traditional forgiveness prayer.

In the living room, David Crowley’s bloody fingerprint was on a laptop, opened to a text file, with only a single sentence:  "I have loved you all with all of my heart.” 

In the home office on a note pad, there were more of his bloody fingerprints and the words "submit to Allah now.”

Police believe David did not kill himself right away, after shooting his wife and daughter.  He left a trail of footprints, tracking Komel's blood through the house. 

"This is a person not thinking clearly, committed a horrible act. His mind at that point was deranged, who knows what he was thinking," said Rechtzigel.

That is also the assessment of one of David Crowley’s closest friends.  "That's David being sarcastic, him throwing a jab, (possibly) at Komel's family," Mason Hendricks speculated. "This has nothing to with Islam, but is ultimately about a man who lost his way, and killed his wife, his daughter and then himself." 

Komel was raised primarily in Pakistan and had converted from Islam to Christianity when the couple married. The couple met in Texas where Komel attended college and David Crowley was stationed in the US Army.  Friends and family told the FOX 9 Investigators religion did not seem to play a significant role in the Crowley’s lives.

A family in isolation

Detectives reconstructed a time line showing David Crowley’s increasing isolation.  

In the summer of 2014, Crowley traveled to Hollywood to meet with producers but by fall, the deal fizzled.  The couple began withdrawing from friends and family. 

Komel told her family she was the "sole bread winner" for the family and she was "not physically or emotionally abused" but the "financial struggles made her question the marriage."

"He looked like he was eating, sleeping, and breathing on the computer," said Hendricks.

By October, the family was essentially cut off from the world. The couple stopped talking to their families and changed their phone numbers.

Crowley's brother left their Christmas presents on the front step to avoid a confrontation.  The gifts stayed there for 3 weeks, until January 17th when the neighbors discovered the bodies by looking into the windows. 

A complicated crime scene

Investigators found a sliding back door was slightly ajar, apparently for the family dog, but there was no sign of forced entry.  

The dog was found alive in the home and had scavenged the bodies. Police believe Crowley may have tried to shoot and kill the dog as well. 

Crowley had ten weapons in the home.  All were purchased legally.  

According to the investigative reports, Crowley regularly smoked marijuana, which was found in the home, and was known to drink Absinthe.  Toxicology was difficult to conduct in the case because of the decomposition of the bodies. 

Judging by the mail that piled up and a paper in the home, the murder-suicide took place the day after Christmas.

The crime scene required exhaustive forensic work.  Investigators spent months sifting through 20 terabytes of video for “Gray State” that Crowley kept on more than a dozen hard drives, looking for clues. 

An ‘extreme case’ of domestic violence

“This is an extreme case of domestic violence,” Chief Rechtzigel said.

According to hundreds of pages of police reports, no one ever saw David physically abuse his family. That's also true with about half of all domestic homicides, there's no prior abuse.

Hendricks also believes his friend had undiagnosed post traumatic stress from his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

In Iraq, Crowley told friends he saw friends killed during an IED attack.  He was also forced to return to Afghanistan when he set to leave the Army through the “stop loss” program.  

Friends say Crowley was also bitter about being forced to stay in the Army.  He also had strong feeling against the war because of the use of drones and the killing of non-combatants.  

There are about 1,500 murder-suicides in the U.S. every year. About 5% of all murders.

If you have become concerned about a friend or relatives isolation, you can find help at Dakota County Crisis (952) 891-7171 and 360 Communities Lewis House (651) 452-7288.

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