Family’s investigation exonerates loved one killed in Phoenix crash

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Crystal Beitman (Source: www.facebook.com/LargerthanlifeCrystalBeitman) Crystal Beitman (Source: www.facebook.com/LargerthanlifeCrystalBeitman)
Mural in Beitman's honor (Source: www.facebook.com/LargerthanlifeCrystalBeitman) Mural in Beitman's honor (Source: www.facebook.com/LargerthanlifeCrystalBeitman)
(Source: www.facebook.com/LargerthanlifeCrystalBeitman) (Source: www.facebook.com/LargerthanlifeCrystalBeitman)
'The feather was specifically added as a symbol for Crystal." ( Source: www.facebook.com/LargerthanlifeCrystalBeitman) 'The feather was specifically added as a symbol for Crystal." ( Source: www.facebook.com/LargerthanlifeCrystalBeitman)

A Valley family has spent nearly a year on an investigation in an effort to clear the name of a loved one killed in car crash, and police say they’ve done it.

The night of July 28, 2016, Crystal Beitman was driving in the area of 35th Avenue and Acoma Drive, which is between Greenway and Thunderbird roads, when her vehicle collided with a pickup truck. Her car, a Toyota, continued on to hit a parked car in the carport of a home.

"The parked car was pushed into another parked car under the carport of an adjacent home," Phoenix Police Sgt. Vince Lewis said at the time, in the earliest hours of the investigation when the situation was fluid and information was still being developed. "The Toyota damaged the corner of one home and continued on to crash into the living room area of a second home."

Beitman, 33, was thrown from the vehicle and died of her injuries.

Police said the early investigation determined that Beitman ran a red light. That information came from a witness and the driver of the pickup truck did not say anything different.

Beitman’s family and friends were adamant that she would never have run a red light.

Her father, Brian Beitman, described her as “hypervigilant.”

“There’s no way she would run a red light,” he said. “It’s just not in her character.”

“Absolutely not,” Jarrett Klein, a longtime family friend who considered Beitman a sister, said. “That’s not in her nature.”

They just had to prove what they knew in their hearts.

“My son was not going to let this rest,” Beitman said of his oldest son, Jason.

In August, Beitman's big brother located a security camera on a home near the intersection where it happened, which was just a block from Beitman’s home. That camera recorded the entire incident and changed the course of the investigation.

Hoping to prove that Beitman was not at fault, Jason told the police about the camera so investigators could look into it, which they did.

After hearing from Beitman's family, we reached out to Det. Richard Clark, who handled the case.

"The investigation is complete and has been submitted to the city prosecutor for 28-672 as a red light [sic] violation was committed which resulted in a fatality,” he said in an email response sent to us by a Phoenix Police Department spokesman. “The original information was based on a witness who indicated the eastbound vehicle driven by Crystal Beitman ran a red light, a fact not disputed by the surviving southbound driver.  Video was obtained at a later time from a nearby security system which showed Beitman entered the intersection on a green light and the southbound driver ran the red."

"The video in question was obtained six days after the collision when the homeowner returned from out of town and contacted police," Lewis wrote in an email response to this story, explaining how the video came to light. "Both parties involved in the collision were then notified of the video and what it revealed, as well as the change in the investigation."

Bottom line: Beitman was not at fault.

“Thank goodness for the video because it really saved face for her since she obviously was not there to defend herself,” Klein said.

While it’s clear that Beitman did not run the light, investigators have not determined what caused her car to keep going. Her family believes she hit the gas to avoid that collision and then either the impact jammed her foot on the pedal or something locked the acceleration cable in place.

Beitman said based on what Jason learned as he investigated the crash on his own, they believe it’s possible the other driver involved might have been racing. At this point, however, there is no proof of that; it’s just supposition on the part of a devastated family.

"My heart goes out to the family for their loss in this terrible tragedy," Lewis said. "I understand that when I spoke on the collision immediately after the occurrence, I was speaking on information that we had at the time. This information was out of character for their loved one and the media attention was perceived as negative."

3TV and CBS 5 have requested both the police report and the surveillance video, but have not yet received them.

Klein said the most important thing is how Beitman is remembered – not as a red-light runner who caused a fatal crash, but as a hard-working woman whose kindness knew no bounds.

“She was literally the most selfless person I know and all of her friends knew,” Klein said.” She was a teacher, a kind-hearted women [sic] and one who had touched the lives of so many.”

One way she did that was by volunteering at Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona, which unveiled a mural at a Sunnyslope shelter in her honor earlier this year.

“This mural was dedicated in honor of Crystal and all the volunteers who have helped build better lives and hope for these beautiful children. The feather was specifically added as a symbol for Crystal,” Klein said on a Facebook memorial page. “She always had a love for feathers and it was rare not to see one somewhere on her.” 

There really is just one thing Beitman’s loved ones want people to know about her.

“She helped everybody,” her dad said. “She was a very loving, giving child – my child.”

News about the exoneration of Beitman comes just weeks before her family gathers for the unveiling of her headstone.

While police have submitted the case to the city prosecutor for consideration, we do not yet know if the other driver who involved in the crash that killed Beitman will be charged.

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