Seven-year-old Amanda and her mother, Kathryn Hartman visited the trailer of Willie Seth Crain Jr. during the evening of September 10, 1998 in Tampa, Florida; Kathryn met Crain at a bar in mid-September of 1998.
According to Kathryn, they watched the movie "Titanic" in Crain's trailer. She stated that she caught Crain alone in his bedroom with Amanda; Crain was apparently intoxicated at the time. Amanda was sitting between his legs and he was showing her how to use the remote control.
Kathryn said that she separated Amanda from Crain and drove to their own mobile home in the 10900 block of Old Hillsborough Avenue. Crain followed them inside the trailer and drew some pictures with Amanda. Kathryn took a shower and changed into her nightgown, and Crain insisted on drying her hair before she went to bed. Kathryn invited Crain to stay the night and sober up.
Amanda didn't go to bed until approximately 2:15 a.m. She went to sleep in her mother's bed, and Kathryn joined her at 2:30 a.m. About five minutes later, Crain got into bed with them (still dressed and wearing his shoes) and the adults fell asleep with Amanda between them.
Kathryn told investigators that Crain had given her five tablets of Valium (a strong sedative) during the evening; she was addicted to prescription painkillers and it wasn't unusual for her to take this amount.
Kathryn didn't wake up until 6:00 a.m. the following morning on September 11th; she stated that both Amanda & Crain had disappeared by that time and nothing else was missing from the home.
After searching the trailer and unable to find Amanda, Kathryn called Crain to ask what he had done with her. Crain said he had nothing to do with Amanda's disappearance and suggested that Kathryn call his daughter (who was her friend and had introduced her to Crain).
Crain said he had to go and would call Kathryn back, but he never did. Kathryn called the police after speaking with Crain. Amanda has never been heard from again.
Amanda's biological father, Ron Brown, was briefly considered a suspect in her disappearance; he and Kathryn never married, and he resided with his wife in Lakeland, Florida in 1998. Ron saw Amanda on a regular basis; the last time was the day before her disappearance.
Ron's relationship with Kathryn was contentious; Kathryn had accused Ron of molesting Amanda and the police investigated, but no charges were filed against Ron. Kathryn had also accused Ron of threatening to kidnap Amanda.
However, Ron was cleared of suspicion in Amanda's disappearance very quickly and the investigation focused on Crain.
Crain has a criminal history dating back to 1969; In 1985, he was convicted of three counts of sexual battery on a child and served 6 years of a 20-year prison sentence; his victims in that case were all girls under the age of 11, some of them were relatives and some of them were neighbor children.
Due to his criminal history and the circumstances, Crain was considered a suspect in Amanda's disappearance from the beginning.
Crain told his family he'd left Kathryn's house at 2:30 a.m. and Amanda was sleeping in Kathryn's bed at the time. When he was interviewed by law enforcement, Crain had several scratches that he couldn't explain. He gave the police permission to search his trailer in the 10600 block of Leanne Drive.
Crain had washed his rugs and cleaned the bathroom floor with bleach, but the authorities discovered blood on his toilet seat; blood was also found on Crain's boxer shorts and the blood matched Amanda's DNA.
When police sprayed the bathroom with Luminol (a chemical which lights up when it detects blood traces), it lit up all over the room, including on the floors, walls and bathtub. However, it should be noted that Luminol also reacts with bleach which Crain admitted that he used it in the bathroom.
Amanda's case was covered extensively in Florida newspapers and on TV; a week after her disappearance, two women came forward and said Crain had sexually assaulted them repeatedly between 1965 and 1971, when they were children. Police arrested Crain on rape charges as a result. A short time later, he was charged with Amanda's murder.
Investigators believe that Crain (who was a commercial crab fisherman) dumped Amanda's body in one of his frequent fishing areas after sexually assaulting and murdering her.
Another crab fisherman who knew him saw him launch his boat at the Courtney Campbell Causeway on Tampa Bay early on the morning of September 11, 1998; the witness said Crain was wearing dress clothes, not the jeans he usually wore, and he wasn't wearing rain gear or a slicker to protect his clothes.
Crain also backed his truck much deeper into the water than usual when he launched his boat. The same witness stated he'd heard Crain boasting about 18 months prior to Amanda's disappearance, that he would be able to get rid of a body so no one could find it.
Crain denied the charges, but he was found guilty in 1999 and sentenced to death; his victims from the 1985 cases were allowed to testify at the penalty phase of his trial. Because he had been convicted of murder and was given the most severe possible sentence, Crain was never prosecuted for the old rapes.
Crain is currently on Florida's death row, but he is suffering from colon cancer and may not live long enough to be executed.
As of 2018, Amanda has not been located; at the time of her disappearance, she attended Lopez Elementary School where she was in the 2nd grade.
Description[edit | edit source]
Amanda is described as a Caucasian female with blonde hair & blue eyes, weighs 45 pounds and has a height of 4'4. She has pierced ears and scars on her forehead. She was last seen wearing a blue & white nightgown. Her nickname is Mandy.