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SHADES OF GRAY: Tragic Deaths of ‘Gray State’ Filmmaker David Crowley & Family Still a Mystery

21st Century Wire

A few short weeks ago, a bizarre tragedy took place in Minnesota that rocked the alternative media community. As friends and loved ones struggle to come to grips with the death of a talented artist and his family, local law enforcement are also attempting to piece together the story in the hope of discovering what may have led to the event.

To date, there are still questions surrounding the shocking deaths of US Army veteran and filmmaker, David Crowleyhis wife Komel and their 5 year-old daughter.

In this special 21WIRE report, we’ll take a closer look and lay out some of the existing evidence surrounding this tragic case…

IMAGE: ‘Freedom lovers’ – David Crowley with his wife Komel. This photo was uploaded to David’s Instagram on July 1st 2014. (Photo link dailymail.co.uk)

The Case Notes

Independent filmmaker, screenwriter and entrepeneur, David Crowley, his wife Komel and their 5 year-old daughter Raniya, were found dead in the couple’s home in Apple Valley, Minnesota, after an apparent ‘murder-suicide’, said to have taken place sometime before Saturday, January 17th.

A number of unanswered questions still remain however.

he Crowley’s next-door neighbor, Collin Prochnow, is said to have discovered three bodies lying next to a handgun on January 17th, shortly after 12:30pm, while looking into the Crowley’s front house window. Prochnow approached the house after seeing the same lights on day and night, stating that he also noticed,”Christmas presents sitting unopened on the doorstep,for several weeks after the holidays.

Prochnow also told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he had not seen the family since before Christmas, inferring that the bodies could have also been at the scene since around Christmas Day, due to the packages not being taken inside the Crowley’s home. Prochnow also added that he, “assumed they had gone somewhere for Christmas.” It wasn’t until after looking through the front window of the Crowley’s Ramsdell Drive rambler that Prochnow made the grisly discovery.

Other details provided by Prochnow state that he had “never heard any yelling, never heard any screaming,” coming from the Crowley’s home. Prochnow remarked that at some point during December, he awoke to something that sounded like gunshots nearby – but could not specify any date when this may have happened.

Prochnow also mentions how the bodies appeared to ‘look like “mannequins’ as he looked through the couple’s front living room window. He states how he was not immediately able to identify the bodies, adding,To me, they just didn’t look human.”

Other dark details were noticed by Prochnow’s wife, Judy, who exclaimed in a local news interview that she noticed, “a heap of bones, and then I noticed a hand.”

The Prochnow’s can be seen discussing case details with Apple Valley News here…

The bodies are believed to have been in the front of the house for several weeks before being discovered, and when police arrived at the scene they noted that the “rear slider was unlocked and slightly ajar,” referring to the sliding glass door on the backside of the house.

Here is the police dispatch message recorded by MnPoliceClips, as they arrived on the scene and at the 2 minute and 33 second mark you can hear the mention of the rear slider said to have been slightly open. Listen to the recording from the police scanner here:

No Time of Death

One of the lingering problems with this case still remains that the authorities have not announced a time of death, and therefore cannot accurately cross reference any other circumstances, like contact, deliveries, eye witness accounts, phone calls and messages.

To date, investigators have not yet released an exact time of death, or a time frame of how long the Crowley family had been deceased in their house, and but have noted the last activity had taken place sometime late December, as local NBC news affiliate KARE11 reported:

“The Apple Valley Police Department officials say while the investigation is still ongoing, they were able to determine the last verified activity from the residence occurred in late December.”

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is assisting the Apple Valley Police with the investigation. The BCA provides around the clock assistance to local authorities in the event of ‘complex cases.’

Initially, the day after the family was discovered on January 18th, investigators stated that they believed that the deaths were ‘suspicious’ in nature, but at the same time, law enforcement were telling reporters that they were looking at a “double-murder suicide” case. Initial reports also stated that a two sentence ‘note’ was also left at the crime scene that didn’t appear to make any sense according to close friend of the Crowleys who was interviewed.

On January 19th, a Star Tribune report stated that David Crowley’s father, Daniel, who lives in Minnesota, said that he did not hear from his son or daughter-in-law over the holiday season, but did say, “We tried [to contact them].”

It’s important to note that long before a full autopsy had been completed on all three bodies, authorities had already established that the scene was being treated as a ‘murder-suicide’. This was confirmed in a report on January 18th. Authorities told NBC station KARE:

The incident in Apple Valley was being treated an apparent murder-suicideApple Valley Police would not comment on that report when contacted by NBC News.”

Oddly, on January 21st, reports state that medical examiners listed “Saturday, January 17th”, as the Crowleys date of death – but the day of injury is left blank on the news release.

By January 23rd, the deaths of David’s wife, Komel, and young daughter, Raniya, had been ruled a homicide, and David’s death was ruled a suicide by the Hennepin County Medical Center’s satellite office in Apple Valley. However, according to authorities the investigation was “still on going.”

According to Captain John Bermel, of Apple Valley police department, investigators have not determined a motive, but did find the family had financial stress. He also mentioned substance abuse, but didn’t elaborate,” as reported by the Associated Press on January 23rd.

Bermel made a few grandiose and vague comments to the media early which may or may not inspire confidence depending on one’s view of this case. Twin Cities reported:

“I have 30 years’ experience as a cop and what I’ve found is that any one of these three things alone typically isn’t going to explain some kind of act like this,” he said. “What I can tell you is we are getting some indications of what may have contributed to this.”

Investigators have not found anything to indicate an intruder entered the home and is responsible for the deaths — a prevalent conspiracy theory held by some on various websites, Bermel said.

“We deal with facts,” Bermel said.

Indeed. And many of those fact are still outstanding.

Also on January 23rd, authorities stated that all three persons at the crime scene died of a gunshot to the head, without any signs of struggle or intrusion on the property. In that same report, police also announced that the ‘Electronic Crimes Task Force’ had seized all of the Crowleys’ computers and electronic devices:

“Investigators have also seized a number of personal electronic devices and computers from the home and the Dakota County Electronic Crimes Task Force is completing forensic analysis of the devices.”

Although authorities have released various details of the case through certain media outlets on a piece by piece basis, they have yet to release a complete and comprehensive report outlining the chronology of what happened and when inside of the Crowley’s Apple Valley home.

If law enforcement does not suspect any third party was involved in the three deaths, then why hasn’t a full incident report been released, including forensic evidence such as ballistics, blood spatter and a date of injury? Until a full report is released to the public, it will only fuel additional speculation as to what the full story is, and Crowley’s motive for the said crime, if indeed this was a murder-suicide.

IMAGE: ‘The Crowley’s residence’ –  Why did it take weeks to discover the Crowley’s bodies and why didn’t anyone seem to notice the family was nowhere to be found? (Photo link mnginteractive.com)

The Anatomy of a Gray State

Having served for 5-years in the US Army, Crowley saw combat in Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as serving overseas in Germany, and back home in Texas. Here is a short excerpt of the rank and official duties of David while in the US Army, according to his LinkedIn profile:

“By 2007 I was a 22-year old sergeant responsible for six soldiers. I supervised their personal, professional, and medical welfare between other responsibilities like cohesive combat vehicle operations, 120mm mortar system deployment and lethal application, essential line infantry combat skills, and personal morale upkeep.”

Crowley is perhaps best known for his liberty activism and his highly anticipated film in progress entitled, Gray State, a high-definition movie production depicting a hyper-real, future dystopia scenario of a ‘once free America’ mired in social decay and economic collapse while falling into an oppressive police state.

Based on the film’s well-produced developmental trailer, Gray State examines a bleak scenario in which America has become a kinetic battleground, a place where violent oppression is the norm, as the country slips into martial law, creating a dark unfathomable landscape in the struggle to keep a free society. Watch the trailer here:

While numerous Hollywood films and TV programs have used similar story elements which also appear in Gray State’s narrative, those working on the project and supporters of it, seemed convinced that this would be a seminal film in that genre – bold, challenging and a detailed illustration exposing federal government tyranny.

It is clear that David Crowley was held in very high regard, not only by his fans and supporters but also by close friends and colleagues. Neighbors of the Crowleys remarked how they were a ‘picture perfect‘ family. Crowley’s outstanding reputation was also echoed in this St. Paul’s Pioneer Press:

“Twin Cities director and filmmaker Paul Von Stoetzel said that David Crowley and his colleagues were good people and had huge dreams for their film careers. Von Stoetzel had met with Crowley early on about possibly writing the script for “Gray State.”

According to the report, Von Stoetzel described how people liked and respected both David Crowley and his business partner, Mitch Heil, who helped to run the pair’s film production company, Hot Head Productions, as well as Bullet Exchange, another company they co-owned which trained actors to use weapons and military and police gear in film.

“He was a great person, a great friend,” Heil said. The two men were friends since high school and had also joined the Army together, but were sent to different assignments, later reunited in the Twin Cities and forming  their actor-training company. In September of 2014, business partners Heil and Crowley parted and went their separate ways.

It was around this time that Crowley was said to have had a garage sale to sell off a collection of ‘airsoft’ guns and other military and law enforcement  film props used by his company which was apparently in the process of closing around that time. Initially, some overly sensational media reports inaccurately portrayed him as a ‘gun owner with a large arsenal’, screen grabbing some of the last garage sale photos he uploaded to his Instagram account, without providing much of a balanced context with which to view the images.

Although some reports have suggested a multi-million dollar film contract was secured to complete the film, other reports tell a different story, prompting Crowley’s long time collaborator Mitch Heil to state the following:

Although Crowley had met with people in California about getting “Gray State” made, nothing had panned out.”

The mult-million dollar contract idea appears to have originated in the blogosphere, derived from a quote that appears on a Gray State informational page. Other social media followers have pointed out that the comments may have originated from musician Jordan Page, as some cite a comment made on his own Facebook page dated January 18th, that read the following:

“The film was about to start production with a $30 million budget from a major Hollywood studio.”

According to Crowley’s Instagram account, he had traveled to Hollywood to pursue funding for Gray State, however it seems that the film itself was still in its early stages of production and although he was said to have a few more concept trailers on the way, as well as a promotional documentary film, the feature didn’t appear to be anywhere near completion.

The Jan 23rd  Twin Cities report elaborates on Gray State’s Hollywood progress here:

“According to a Facebook post Wednesday by David Kirk West — an Oregon writer, director and producer — Crowley showed his financial stress in three direct messages he sent him through the social-media website. In a June 19, 2014 message, which West took a screenshot of and included in his Facebook post, Crowley asks, “how do you live with filmmaking as your profession? … don’t you panic when things get slow? Don’t you stress and worry. I can’t get away from evil thoughts some days.”

In a Nov. 24, 2013 message, Crowley said he wonders “how other filmmakers survive.”

“I finally went broke this week,” Crowley’s message reads. Crowley voiced concern about his movie project to a Los Angeles film director on Dec. 17, 2014. He told Jason Allen the project — now four years in the making — was “now almost completely abandoned” by its original backers and that he was “exhausted from carrying and managing this burden for so many years.”

Here’s a rough cut of ‘Gray State: The Rise’ documentary on YouTube, it was to be a promotional tool for Crowley’s Gray State film, as he sought funding. Interestingly, this video has been posted dozens of times on to multiple accounts in recent weeks, and then pulled down due to ‘copyright claims’. Here is one such link:

Friends and Media 

Adding to the confusion over this developing story, there appears to be some statements made to the media that could be construed as contradictory,  made by some Gray State team members after the traumatic event. Pioneer Press reports:

Twin Cities actor Charles Hubbell starred in the trailer for “Gray State,” which appears to appeal to conspiracy theorists.

Hubbell said he doesn’t believe that Crowley, whom he described as efficient, disciplined, passionate and inspirational, believed fully in all the conspiracy theories of government takeover that make up his film.”

Hubbell continued by adding:

He seemed more grounded and focused than would lend itself to anything chaotic,” Hubbell said. The entire time I worked with him there was nothing aggressive or chaotic or strange or abnormal. He was one of the ones I was hanging my hat on, one who was going to succeed.”

In an additional report with KSTP TV, Hubbell stated:

This is not the David that I know. This is nowhere near the David I know. He was proud of his service. He was proud of his expertise.” 

There was another report, however,were Hubbell, paints an entirely different picture of Crowley’s mind-set in recent months:

“September time… he stopped talking to people,” Hubbell says. “He asked me to stay in touch with him so we could support each other, and he just stopped taking my calls… He was in a place where he needed help, and it was too big for him to help himself.”

In that same report, featured by a local FOX news affiliate, the media appears to fill in Hubell’s statement, providing their own leading conclusion as to what Crowley’s psychological state was like at the time:

“Charles Hubbel was an actor in the trailer and says in recent months Crowley became despondent that the project had lost steam.”

Also according to Hubbell, the Crowleys had been talking about moving to Los Angeles, with David looking for possible work in the film industry and his wife Komel continuing her health-related business as a professional dietitian at www.mindbodydietitian.com.

In another Star Tribune report there appears more contradictory statements, this time between Jason Allen and David Crowley which characterizes the deceased as both ‘fine’ and in trouble:

“Jason Allen, a producer based in Los Angeles, also said Wednesday that Crowley’s words and actions when the two met in September and in an e-mail Crowley sent him on Dec. 17, seem contradictory to a man who was about to kill his family and himself.”

The report continued:

“Crowley wrote, “I have no idea who much money is going to come together when this kicks off here in a few weeks, but it might be enough to get started on a series, then independent feature(s) running a common story line.”

“Allen was out of town over the holidays and didn’t respond to Crowley’s e-mail until Jan. 8. By then the family was dead.

Other associates close to Crowley, cast a more definitive picture of the veteran, reported in the local press on January 20th:

Mason Hendricks, a close friend stated that, “There are no answers,” he said. “What you’re ultimately hearing is you had an awesome human being who loved his family and loved life. Then there’s something that none of us know. ” adding, “He’s not a person who snaps. He was too methodical.” 

 In that same report Hendricks continued:

“Although Crowley was an Army veteran and had served in Afghanistan, he wasn’t a ‘gun nut,’ didn’t suffer from PTSD and was very anti-militarism.”

“I know that people and media and different outlets are going to paint him as this right-wing extremist that had guns. The guy believed in peaceful stuff,” Hendricks said. “He believed in waking people up through knowledge, not through violence.”

In another Star Tribune report, it was disclosed that there was mention of the two-sentence ‘note‘ left at the crime scene:

“Mason Hendricks, one of David Crowley’s best friends, said earlier in the week that his friend left a two-sentence note that doesn’t explain anything. Hendricks wouldn’t say what the note contained.”

Hendricks was said to have last talked to Crowley by the phone on December 2, 2014. Another as of yet ‘unidentified’ friend talked to Crowley by phone on the 16th or 17th of December. Dan Crowley, David’s brother, is said to have dropped off Christmas presents on the 26th or 27th at the Crowley’s Apple Valley residence, according to reports. During this visit, Dan witnessed the family dog in the window:

Dan Crowley told Hendricks on Monday that the Crowleys’ dog, PALEO, popped his head up into the large front window. Dan Crowley didn’t want to bother his brother and sister-in-law, so left and later called and texted his brother a couple of times, with no reply.”

Comparative analysis

There is another perspective to consider, one that might help put the Crowley tragedy into context.

In 2013, there was a report examining the death of pilot Phillip Marshall and his family. The Marshall case that was also ruled an apparent murder-suicide with seemingly zero motive.  According to an investigation into the troubling details of Marshall’s case almost two years ago:

“Many news reports have been quick to echo what the Calaveras County Sheriffs Department has claimed; Philip Marshall killed his two teenage kids, his dog, and himself. What we know is that there is no motive for the allegation, and we know that this conclusion was made the same day that the three bodies were found.”

In some ways the media coverage of the Marshall case mirrors that of the Crowley case, following a very similar pattern – where an official ruling was released long before a motive or full forensic investigation had been completed.

Photo by Joel Franklin - LibertyShots@gmail.com - David Crowley, Gray State The Movie 4
IMAGE: ‘Speaking out’ – David Crowley speaking at Paul Festival. ( Photo by Joel Franklin)

When ‘Reality’ Goes Dark

The conversation surrounding this case appears to have triggered a fiery discourse over the last two weeks.

In the three weeks since the Crowley family was found dead in their Apple Valley home of an apparent murder-suicide, two main forums have materialized on Facebook discussing many theories surrounding the case. There seems to be a firestorm of controversy over comments made on social media pages and internet forums over the case details.

Scanning social media, it’s apparent that there have been multiple calls and comments from friends, family and associates of Crowley not to entertain “conspiracy theories,” pertaining to the gruesome deaths.

Some blogs have posted unorthodox presentations of the Crowley case, including merged and spliced chat conversations from Facebook chat sessions with David Crowley, appearing to lend support the official story in this case.

Other internet chatter points to David Crowley’s own Facebook page as evidence of possible mental decline. However, there is nothing concrete that would substantiate those claims.

Other media reports included typical emotive language which is commonly used by corporate media when trying to disparage a suspect or paint the deceased as a ‘militant’ character who had a “short hair cut” and “started wearing [military] fatigues”. In this instance some pejorative descriptions of Crowley in his final days which again contradict previous statements made about Crowley’s behavior. This may well have been just another case of the media digging for dirt, but it’s still worth noting. The Star Tribune report states:

“The next-door neighbors said Crowley changed his appearance last fall, cut his hair short and started wearing fatigues.”

“We noticed the change in his appearance,” Collin Prochnow said. “His personality didn’t seem to change. We never got into any kind of ­politics.”

One organization which was particularly aggressive towards the deceased was the Southern Poverty Law Center who also wasted no time inserting themselves in this tragedy by posting a highly questionable article about Crowley, well before an official ruling had been made in this case. The report appeared on their Hate Watch blog only 72 hours after the Crowleys bodies had been discovered, and displayed a heavily defamatory narrative. The SPLC seemed very keen to label the incident under the banner of “extremism”. Again, the speed at which this establishment NGO moved to defame Crowley has only raised more suspicion surrounding this case.


Regardless of people’s opinions regarding Crowley’s Gray State film project, the fact remains it was a much-anticipated film among those in alternative media and  “Liberty Movement” circles. However one perceives it, the tragedy has penetrated the community, and would be felt as a crushing blow to some people who believed deeply in this project’s message, and its potential to educate and perhaps warn the public of an impending crisis in America.

As mentioned above, even though Gray State may or may not be a novel concept for film and TV, it was a project conceived and created by a US military veteran, which would certainly lend credibility to the film’s intention and would also spark additional controversy if given enough attention on a mainstream level, in lesser, but similar way in which US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s book and film has done recently.

David Crowley filming-21WIRE.jpg
IMAGE: ‘Behind the camera’ – David Crowley seen here working on a film.

Questions Still Remain

Here are some questions to consider as the details of this case have slowly trickled out from investigators and through media reports:

 Who was the last known person or persons to see the family alive?
 Why was this case quickly treated as a ‘murder-suicide’ before all the forensic evidence was established?
 If the Crowleys were deceased since before Christmas, why wouldn’t family or friends notify authorities, as is a common practice that family are communicating over the holidays?
 What are the exact dates of the family’s injury and deaths?
 Was David Crowley really suffering from PTSD as some have already inferred in the media?
 Is there concrete evidence that Crowley had substance abuse issues, as remarked by Apple Valley authorities?

If the official story is to be believed, then the biggest question of all would be what was David Crowley’s motive for murdering his own wife and daughter, and then killing himself?

NOTE: 21WIRE’s research team has already contacted Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office asking for copies of the case incident report and a chronology of events, but to date the office has not yet sent the information which was requested.

IMAGE: ‘Viewfinder’ – David Crowley (photo link facebook.com)

Crowley and Gray State Alternative Media Interviews and Reactions:

This is a revealing interview conducted by Ben Swann, with actor and co-creator of Gray State, Danny Mason.

Watch as they discuss David Crowley and the future of the Gray State film project directly on the heels of the shocking case…

Other investigators have remarked that perhaps other clues may be hidden in plain sight. Here is one of Crowley’s media associates Rupert Quaintance commenting on the bizarre case:

Here’s an interview with David Crowley and Danny Mason conducted by close friend Sean Wright from the Minnesota chapter of ‘We Are Change’, published in 2012:

Another similar interview with Crowley conducted by
Alex Jones from Infowars
which aired in August 2012.

Judging from the following interview, it’s evident how both Crowley and Mason were heavily inspired by Alex Jones and some of the popular topics and themes found on Infowars.com. Crowley explains,”Gray State has been my effort to kind of draw the human narrative out of all this terrifying information that we see all around us.” Crowley added, “Why isn’t anyone showing this in a film? That’s what I’m doing. That is what Gray State is. Gray State is the ‘Alex Jones film’, essentially.”

So impressed was Jones with the project, that he even offered to lend his support and to help Crowley to ‘get this done’. Prior to 2012, Jones had several very successful documentary films covering the same subject matter as Gray State, so this would have been a major confidence booster for Crowley to receive such an endorsement. Watch the Alex Jones-David Crowley interview here:

In another video, Crowley can be seen speaking at a Minnesota ‘Liberty Round Table’ event in 2012 and with many of the movement’s most popular personalities in attendance (Crowley’s segment begins at the 49:00 min mark):


This report was compiled by several 21WIRE contributing authors and Senior Researcher. 

READ MORE HOLLYWOOD NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Hollywood Files



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