Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

April 23, 2013

Love and loss: Cantrell’s family marks birthday while awaiting justice

SPANISHBURG — Today one family is marking a birthday that is touched by sadness instead of joy. All the McDowell County woman’s loved ones want now is for whoever took her life to be brought to justice.

On Aug. 10, 2010, the family of 36-year-old Crystal Cantrell, of the Welch area, discovered her body along the banks of the Bluestone River near Spanishburg. The search began after she was reported missing four days earlier. Her Ford Explorer was found along Gardner Road not far from where her body was found.

During the investigation, troopers with the Princeton detachment of the West Virginia State Police learned that Cantrell was last seen at the Gibson Supermarket in Welch. She left the store alone after grocery shopping with her mother. Investigators have not described how she died. Cpl. J.C. Long of the Princeton detachment said Monday that nothing new had been reported.

Three years have gone by, but the family still remembers the joy she brought to everyone, said Annette Key, 40, a West Virginia native who now lives in Ashboro, N.C.

“She’s my baby sister,” Key said of Cantrell. “(Today) would have been her birthday.”

Birthdays were one of Crystal’s favorite days, she recalled. And not just her birthday, anybody’s birthday was a special occasion.

“She was full of life,” Key said. “I mean, she always did everybody’s cakes on their birthday. She really enjoyed birthdays; just everybody’s birthdays, anybody in our family. All of the kids loved her. She made their Easter baskets, and took them to the movies and the ball games. She was a 100 percent devoted mother and aunt.”

Her two sons are now adults. C.J. is now 23 and Matt is 18, Key said.

Key could not recall anything her sister disliked, and she was always ready to help.

“She just enjoyed everything. There wasn’t much she didn’t like to do. She was my mom and dad’s backbone,” Key said. “She took care of them. She took them everywhere they needed to go, doctor’s appointments, everything. Her death has taken a real toll on them. Crystal was a big part of the family.”

Cantrell would have been 39 years old today. Now her family is hoping that whoever murdered her will be found.

“There’s justice to be served because her killer still walks the streets,” Key said. “He’s still out there. He knows who he is.”

Key asked if she could share a poem her sister, Crystal, wrote for another sister, Regina, who passed away. The family felt that its verses also apply to Crystal, known in the family as Chris, on her birthday.

“Every day that goes by you’re in our hearts, our minds and our tears. It’s so hard to believe that you have been gone from us for three years. Not being able to see you, touch you or to hear your voice.

“Leaves us with so much heartache, but with that we have no choice. All we have left are pictures and memories of you. No matter how much we wish you were here with us, those things don’t ever come true.

“Everyone grieves for you in their own special way. It’s so hard on all of us, sometimes we can’t find the words to say. We want you to know that you’re loved and missed so very much. You’re kept in our hearts where you’ll stay forever and untouched. ...”

 — Contact Greg Jordan at

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