Printed: May 26, 2022

GUN VIOLENCE

Widower: Forgiving is the way forward

Oregon man reflects on loss

BY JEFF SCHMUCKER BLADE STAFF WRITER

Knute Huber recalls arriving home Dec. 16 to see Oregon police officers, guns drawn, moving in on his home, and his gut told him his life would be changed forever — that his wife, Johanna Crawford, was likely dead inside.

It was an intuition that would be proven correct. Officers found Mrs. Crawford shot to death in her living room. Their granddaughter, 9-year-old Adeline, was missing.

Mr. Huber took it all in. He said he also felt he knew who was responsible, a man who police later arrested and charged, Adeline’s biological father, Malcolm Fisher. Right then and there, Mr. Huber made a decision.

“In that moment, I forgave Malcolm,” he said. “I knew right away when I pulled up that the only way I could move forward was to get Malcolm out of my head. Malcolm’s not going to win.”

And there was still a missing girl to find.

On that front, Mr. Huber is grateful that Adeline was recovered safely later that night, while Fisher was taken into custody without further violence.

But with his granddaughter safe, Mr. Huber said he recognized there would be a long road ahead toward recovering from the ordeal — for himself, Adeline, and his children.

At some point, he knew he would have to return home to where the nightmare of that night began and, just like with his shattered door, pick up the pieces and find a way to make it whole again.

But Mr. Huber is determined to move forward in a positive way and lead by example to show what true forgiveness looks like.

“Malcolm has already chosen the avenue he wants to go to, but he’s already given me an avenue to go down. He’s given me an avenue of much more comfort.”

Baby steps

Less than a week after her death, Mr. Huber welcomed a Blade reporter and photographer into his home, along with Oregon’s police chief and detectives who happened to have some follow-up questions about his wife’s death.

A new door now replaces the one that was damaged when police say Fisher barged in, but Mr. Huber acknowledges there is much-unfinished cleaning to be done. He said it’s all part of the process moving forward.

But it’s in his living room that Mr. Huber holds oratory sway over journalists and police alike as he shares philosophical musings and tells stories. In fact, communicating with people is an important aspect of his overall philosophy that has served him well during his time in starting a half-dozen soup kitchens and food pantries across northwest Ohio, including the Helping Hands of St. Louis Soup Kitchen in East Toledo, the Good Samaritan Outreach Center in the Old South End, and Caring Kitchen in Fostoria.

Once the police are gone, Mr. Huber makes clear he doesn’t want to focus on his wife’s death, but the healing that comes after.

That said, he sits The Blade’s reporter on the couch where his wife died, explaining he wants people to at least understand what happened to her and why forgiveness is so important in the aftermath.

It’s that lack of forgiveness, he said, that in part explains why the Toledo area is plagued by so many homicides, with some of the shootings and deaths, he believes, being caused by those who seek retaliation as a path forward instead of forgiveness.

“I’m not going to let the person who took my wife’s life to still run my life,” he said. “And that’s what violence does, it controls you because you don’t know what to do with it.”

As he talks, Mr. Huber at times takes a long, deep breath to steady himself before describing his own feelings of forgiveness and moving forward. At times, he puts his head down and clasps his hands, absently turning the wedding ring on his finger, even nodding a bit as if doing so allows some whispers of wisdom to calm his mind.

He acknowledges that it can be a difficult concept for people to grasp, especially when they’re in pain and angry. But he describes it as simply taking a step, and he gets up and does so to demonstrate. Doing so, he said, allows him to see things at a slightly different angle, knowing that he’s no longer where he was before.

“It doesn’t mean I’m not mad, it doesn’t mean I’m not angry,” he says softly but earnestly at one point, leaning forward, “but I’m somebody who leads by example. I walk the walk and I talk the talk. I’m not afraid to do that.”

Mr. Huber likes to hold discussions, but he said he has never been someone who relishes confrontation. He typically likes to sit back and analyze things before speaking up. He said, in contrast, his wife was more of the type to partake in marches for various causes, write letters to the editor in The Blade, and strongly speak out against various injustices.

Now he feels called to take up her advocacy, which included anti-violence. He doesn’t pretend to know all the answers to solving gun violence, but he believes residents can find answers if they’re willing to talk. And forgive.

And it’s not something that will be solved quickly. Mr. Huber said he’s still working toward piecing together his own life, and that of his family’s, after the events of Dec. 16.

Death and dealing with the aftermath

Issues with Fisher were simmering for a while before the violence of that night. Fisher wanted custody of Adeline, and there were two incidents involving him in the days leading up to Mrs. Crawford’s death.

The first involved an argument between him and Mrs. Crawford two days prior at Joel and Albion streets in Toledo. Police said there was no evidence of violence, and officers chalked it up to a domestic dispute.

It wasn’t until after they left that officers learned there was a misdemeanor warrant for Fisher’s arrest.

A day later, Mrs. Crawford called again to say Fisher contacted her daughter and made threats to kill her along with her parents — Mrs. Crawford and Mr. Huber.

“The Oregon police officers then conducted a criminal records check on Mr. Fisher and found him to have two warrants out of the Toledo Police Department for an unrelated incident,” according to an Oregon police news release. “The officers reviewed the information and advised Ms. Crawford that the division would conduct extra patrols of the residence and surrounding area.”

A day later, Mrs. Crawford was shot and killed.

Mr. Huber said Fisher took Adeline to a house in the 1100 block of Joel Avenue. A man there contacted police and told them Fisher and the child were there.

When police arrived, Fisher came out the back door with Adeline. Currently, Fisher is in the Lucas County jail facing aggravated murder and kidnapping charges. Not guilty pleas were entered Dec. 17 in Oregon Municipal Court, records show.

All told, Mr. Huber said he’s not certain what Adeline saw at his Oregon residence when she was taken, or what else occurred while she was with Fisher. But, he said, based on what his granddaughter has told him, as well as officers, she seems to have kept a level head throughout her ordeal.

The officers told her she was a hero, he added. On their own, they later met with his family and gave her toys.

But there’s still much healing to be done. On Christmas Eve, Mr. Huber met and talked with the man who called police and told them where Fisher was holding Adeline. Next on Mr. Huber’s list was talking with his daughter, Adeline’s mom, because he said the two hadn’t yet had a long talk about the events of that night.

Beyond that, there’s the planning for the Jan. 29 celebration of life for Mrs. Crawford, which Mr. Huber said he hopes will be more like a community event that he aims to be life-changing for those who attend.

“I can’t let what happened be just another obituary,” he said. “But I have an opportunity to take what happened and try to turn it around for other people — and how much more positive can people be if they see me with a different attitude about what happened?”

Contact Jeff Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com, or on Twitter @jschmuckerBLADE.