FRONT ROYAL — The case involving the September 2019 murder of Tristen Brinklow is not going to trial.
A plea deal between Richard Crouch, 37, of Front Royal, and the Warren County Commonwealth's Attorney's office for the murder charges as well as other offenses was accepted by a Warren County Circuit Court judge on Friday. A trial had been scheduled to start Aug. 2.
In addition to the homicide, Crouch was also charged with assault and strangulation stemming from a domestic violence incident with a girlfriend and with methamphetamine possession with the intent to distribute.
Crouch pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, concealing a dead body and defiling a dead body in the charges related to Brinklow's death. He also pleaded guilty to unlawful wounding and two counts of strangulation related to the domestic case and the intent to distribute methamphetamine.
Commonwealth's Attorney John Bell said the plea deal prevents Crouch from appealing the verdict, which would have been possible had the case gone to trial.
Howard Manheimer and Eric Wiseley, Crouch's attorneys, could not be reached for comment.
Bell said Crouch, who has been incarcerated since September 2019, could be sentenced to about 30 years in prison, including his time served. Crouch is set to appear before Judge William Sharp for a Nov. 29 sentencing hearing.
Bell said on Monday that the incidents began unfolding when Crouch beat his girlfriend on Sept. 24. When deputies from the Warren County Sheriff's Office arrived at his home the following night to arrest him, Crouch began running. That's when the methamphetamine and the people Crouch sold it to were discovered.
In the following days, Bell said Crouch met up with George Good, of Front Royal, and Brinklow, at a motel and used methamphetamine. In a drug-induced paranoia and rage, Crouch thought Brinklow was wearing his clothes and began beating and choking him, leading to his death on Sept. 28, Bell said.
Crouch and Good concealed the body in a refrigerator and had another person with a truck pick it up, strap it to the top and then leave it near the Thunderbird Farms boat landing, where the body was discovered by passersby, Bell said.
Crouch was found and arrested on Sept. 29 for the domestic incident. In December, authorities got a call from Crouch's cellmate at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional jail sharing information on the murder of Brinklow that hadn't been released to the public yet, Bell said.
Because the cellmate knew information that was not widely known, authorities thought he was credible, Bell said. The cellmate then wore a wire and documented Crouch’s storytelling of what happened, Bell said.
Crouch was interviewed and described what happened to Brinklow, placing most of the blame for the murder on Good. Bell said that Good, who was arrested and charged in the crime, placed the blame on Crouch.
Good also shared directions to where evidence — including items belonging to Brinklow — was dumped near the Riverton Quarry, Bell said.
Good, who was also charged in a Front Royal assault and other drug charges, accepted a plea deal earlier this year in which he was to testify for the Commonwealth Attorney’s office against Crouch based on the evidence he had already shared. He would receive prison time for how he handled Brinklow’s body after the murder, up to five years, and the murder charge would be dropped against him.
Good is due in court on Aug. 13 for the deal to be formally accepted and entered.