LANCASTER — Sierra Landry had just called it quits with her boyfriend of nearly two years before she ran into him at McDonald’s last week. Four days later, she was found dead in a stranger’s yard.
The “bubbly,” “high-spirited,” “happy-go-lucky” model who family members said enjoyed making others smile tried to sever ties with her boyfriend, Tanner Crolley, when his behavior became frightening, according to Landry’s grandmother, Cindy Stogner.
“She realized that she needed a change in her life,” Stogner said.
Crolley, relatives say, was not receptive. The 18-year-old former Buford High School student began harassing Sierra Landry, calling her home at all hours of night, “blowing up” her cell phone and sending her threatening messages, said Jessica Landry, Sierra Landry’s stepmother. Though the younger Landry would tell him to leave her alone, he did not listen, family members said, going as far as to threaten her on Facebook.
Police say their last encounter ended in gunfire. At 10:10 p.m. on Monday, authorities received a call about a shooting on John Everall Road, off Camp Creek Road. When officers arrived at the home, they found Landry, 18, dead from an apparent gunshot wound.
She was pronounced dead on the scene. Autopsy results show that she was shot once in the head, said Lancaster County Chief Deputy Coroner Karla Deese.
Deputies identified Crolley as the only suspect, and say he fled on foot. About three hours later, they found him near the intersection of John Everall Road and S.C. 200, deputies reported. He was taken into custody and charged with murder. He was being held Tuesday at the Lancaster County Detention Center without bond.
Faile said there were no witnesses to the shooting, but authorities have determined that Landry and Crolley had been arguing.
“They were somewhat boyfriend and girlfriend,” said Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile. “For it to turn out like this … there must have been some problems."
Investigators did not find any weapons at the scene of the shooting, Faile said, and did not find a gun on Crolley when he was arrested. He said Crolley is cooperating with authorities, but he would not elaborate.
Neither Crolley nor Landry were current students in the Lancaster County schools, said district spokesman David Knight. Both attended Buford High School last year, but did not graduate.
The woman who lives at the home where Landry was found slain said she assumes the two were waiting for her grandson, who had been friends with Crolley for years. Her grandson, though, was not at home. She said she did not even realize that Landry and Crolley were waiting in her yard and found out there had been shooting only after deputies knocked on her front door.
Though she did not want to give her name, she said that she was not well-acquainted with either Landry or Crolley. What she learned about Landry from her grandson is that the teen was a “sweet girl.”
Relatives said they tried contacting Crolley’s mother without success. A family member who answered the door to Crolley’s South Potter Road home declined to comment Monday afternoon.
Earlier on Monday, deputies named Crolley as a person of interest after one of his family members reported that a firearm was missing, Faile said. By Tuesday evening, the stolen gun had not been found.
Jessica Landry said she received a call from detectives who wanted to know if she had seen Crolley. That call, she said, “disturbed me.” Hours later, she received a call that her stepdaughter had been shot and her worst fears about her stepdaughter’s relationship with Crolley became a horrifying reality.
In the year they were together, Crolley allegedly held a gun to Landry’s head and threatened her several times, she said.
Family members tried warning Landry about her relationship with Crolley: “We tried to teach her that’s not love. Any time there’s violence involved, that’s not love; that’s control,” Jessica Landry said. “We fought so hard to get her away (from Crolley).”
In July, the couple had been charged in a March burglary at Jessica Landry’s home. Sierra Landry, in tears, confessed to her part in the crime. A month earlier, Crolley had been charged with criminal domestic violence, court records show.
Jessica Landry said a restraining order against Crolley was issued and, while the burglary cases were pending in court, Sierra Landry decided to turn her life around.
Taria Bailey, a longtime friend of Jessica Landry’s, said the teen broke off her relationship with Crolley. For the next several months, he would harass her. Jessica Landry called it “stalking.”
Bailey said Sierra Landry ran into Crolley at McDonald’s last Thursday. She warned him to leave her alone.
“She didn’t think anything bad would come out of it,” Bailey said. “The only thing you could remember is her smile. She had such a beautiful smile on her face at all times. We just don’t understand how somebody could do her like that.”
On Monday, Sierra Landry had been spending time with a friend when she received a call from Crolley, who wanted to speak with her, Jessica Landry said. Crolley picked her up.
“I think he knew she wasn’t going to come back,” Jessica Landry said. “She couldn’t get out of the path of this guy.”
Stogner, Sierra Landry’s grandmother, said the teen saw the best in people and tried to help them.
“She can just touch a person’s heart. She knew he had issues,” she said. “I think together they were a recipe for disaster.”
Jonathan McFadden • 803-329-4082