Less Than Heroic?

Dog Handler Accused Of Scamming Those Who Help Her

Kristine Crawford has gained recognition for being an excellent dog handler and working with elite search and rescue teams.

She claims to be an advocate for the "misunderstood" pitbull. And her appearances on national television have given her widespread exposure of her worthy efforts to help those lost.

Crawford's appearances have also given her credibility in the tight-knit search and rescue community. For example, when the Columbia shuttle mission ended in disaster in 2003, Crawford was called upon by NASA's K-9 team leader , who knew of her reputation.

Crawford was also there when searchers went looking for and found Lacy Peterson's body.

Her rescue efforts are highlighted on her Web site. The site also includes credit card payment options for her nonprofit educational program.

So, a protector of the pitbull and a heroine of search and rescue efforts -- what's not to like about Crawford? That's where this story takes a very ugly turn.

Laura and Wayne Rathe opened their hearts and their home to Crawford six years ago.

"We befriended her. She started coming into our home," Linda Rathe said.

Over time, Crawford revealed her "tragic" story to the Rathes: that she had cancer with only six months to live.

"She would drive to our house and Wayne and I would go out to the car, carry her in, put her in our spare bedroom," Rathe said.

The Rathes told Crawford they wanted Hospice care to help her in her last days and a oncologist to help them understand her needs. She disappeared without a word the next day.

Years later, the Rathes heard about another search and rescue family, the Kellys , who opened their home to a woman dying of cancer.

"She claimed she had adult lupus and metastic stage five cancer," Kimberly Kelly said.

Crawford told Kelly she had one month and two days to live.

The Rathes contacted Kelly to warn her about Crawford. That's when Crawford refused to talk to a doctor about her medical history.

"Everything was a total fabrication," Kelly said.

Crawford told Kelly her father died in the Sept. 11 terror attacks and her husband died in a car wreck in Colorado.

"To use the events of 9-11 and bastardize that into a personal drama so you can get money out of people is unforgiveable," Kelly said.

Kelly and Rathe said they are puzzled by Crawford's strange behavior and upset after spending thousands of dollars to help Crawford. But what really hurts, is the deceit.

"When my sister died of cancer, that's when I really got angry at her," Rathe said.

Crawford was arrested on two theft charges for stealing a human skeleton from Menlo College.

A photo of the skeleton in a variety of poses on CrawfordÂ’s Web site turned out to be the evidence needed to trip her up.

She later pled no contest to embezzlement and grand theft, and is currently serving 18 months probation and community service.

10News has tried to contact Crawford for comment, but her phone has been disconnected and she has not responded to e-mails to her For Pits Sake Web site.

The skeleton theft not only put Crawford in jail, but will likely put her out of business, as well.

Many emergency agencies refuse to sponsor volunteers with criminal records.

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