An appellate court has denied an attempt at post-conviction relief by an Atlantic City man who viciously beat his pregnant teenage girlfriend more than a decade ago and left her to die.
Cordell Harper, now 30, pleaded guilty to the New Year’s Eve 2001 killing of Helen Croudy, 16, the day jury selection began for his murder trial. He was later sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Croudy was pregnant by Harper at the time of her death.
“As a result of a desire to be with another girl, an ‘inconvenient’ pregnancy of the victim resulted in her being bludgeoned to death,” Superior Court Judge Michael Connor said at sentencing in 2003. “(Harper) mercilessly beat the victim with a hammer until it broke, and left her to die so he could be with another girl.”
Seven years after his conviction, Harper appealed, claiming he had ineffective counsel. But the appellate panel ruled against him Thursday, saying he missed the deadline for two years, rejecting his argument that he was unaware of the cutoff date.
“In terms of the plea, defendant made a reasonable and well-informed decision to plead guilty and not attempt a passion/provocation defense at trial,” the judges wrote in their decision “The record reflects that defendant gave multiple versions of events to the police and other individuals before he ultimately confessed that, in Atlantic City on New Year's Eve 2001, he bludgeoned his 16-year-old, pregnant girlfriend with a hammer and a brick, and then dragged her body to the end of a jetty where he left her to die from blunt force trauma and submersion in the ocean water. “
The judges noted that Harper claimed in his statement to the police that Croudy attacked him, but witnesses were prepared to testify that the killing was planned because Harper wanted to have a relationship with another girl and didn’t want to pay child support.
Harper is not eligible for parole until July 1, 2044, when he will be 61.
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