VERO BEACH — A woman who told detectives she went “into a rage” when she killed her 81-year-old mother during a March 9 physical attack pleaded guilty Friday to a second-degree murder charge.
In court, Crystal Kohler, 39, who is listed in court documents as Crystal Marie Williams, was ordered to serve life in prison for the stabbing death of Carmelina Kohler, 81.
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Investigators found Carmelina Kohler inside her garage under boxes and blankets with stab wounds “to her abdomen and neck.” She had been reported missing by family members.
While being questioned about her mother’s sudden disappearance, investigators discovered Crystal Kohler had cocaine in her possession and was taken into custody, records show.
She initially was charged with drug possession, driving with a suspended license and grand theft of a vehicle when investigators learned the car she was driving had been reported stolen.
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Records show Kohler told detectives she attacked her mother after she made a comment while they were moving boxes in the garage.
Assistant State Attorney Brandon White said they could have sought a first-degree murder indictment by presenting their case to a grand jury but the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented jurors from convening since March.
“The defendant was willing to enter into a plea to a life sentence to second-degree murder,” White said.
“We felt that it was in the interest of the victim’s family to go ahead and take that life sentence.”
He also credited the investigation done by the Indian River County sheriff’s detectives for Kohler agreeing to plead guilty.
“It really boxed her in,” White said.
After court, Assistant Public Defender Dorothy Naumann said Kohler, who cried throughout Friday’s hearing, “wanted to take responsibility for what happened.”
“She did not want to go through a trial. There was a possibility the state could seek the death penalty if they got a grand jury indictment for first degree murder,” said Naumann in an email.
“That was also part of her decision to … plead guilty now and accept life in prison.”
Melissa E. Holsman is the legal affairs reporter for TCpalm and Treasure Coast Newspapers, and is writer and co-host of Uncertain Terms, a true crime podcast. For in-depth, exclusive and breaking legal affairs coverage be sure to subscribe.