Britney Cross' family, friends: Slain woman was peaceful, loving

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Neil Johnson
Tuesday, May 6, 2014

INDIANFORD—Tyler Cross, 15, the younger brother of slain Indianford resident Britney Cross, said his sister was his best friend.

Britney had watched over Tyler his entire life. She hung over him as a shadow of protection, even during the last few years while she fought the dark shadows of her own substance abuse problems.    

But lately, Tyler and Britney hadn't been getting along, he said. He said he'd been arguing with her about recent times he'd seen her at the family's mobile home in Indianford, passing out from drinking alcohol after partying with friends. 

Tyler said his family feared Britney was backsliding into substance abuse even as friends say she was going through a drug and alcohol abuse treatment program.

“I was being a little bit of an a__hole to her. It was over the people she was with; the choices she made. I think she was using alcohol in place of her other drug,” Tyler said Tuesday outside the mobile home that he, his mother, Tracy Cross, and Britney shared.

The last time family or friends at the mobile home park say they saw Britney Cross alive, she said she was hopping a ride to Janesville on Sunday afternoon to party with friends.

Monday, police found Cross' body a few blocks from the Rock River just north of downtown Janesville. Police say they suspect Clayton Courtney, a Janesville man Cross' friends say was her “boyfriend” or “ex-boyfriend,” of killing Cross.

She died from a blow to the head from a blunt object, police said.

Courtney is in custody for trying to stab another friend to death Sunday night on North Pontiac Drive in Janesville. He was found covered in blood and mud, had a rock in his pocket, and told police he'd killed three people, police said.

Witnesses said they knew Courtney was meeting Cross on Sunday under the Memorial Bridge near downtown Janesville to drink and do drugs with her, police said.

Police don't have a motive for the killing, but Courtney is the only suspect, and they haven't ruled out drug use as a factor in Cross's killing.

“I didn't know this would happen,” Tyler Cross said. “If I did, I know what I'd have told her. I'd have said, 'I love you.'” 

Cross' family and friends on Tuesday mourned a young woman they say was a steadfast friend, a free spirit who wore a peace-sign pendant and called people she loved “groovy.”   

Craig Russell, a neighbor at the mobile home court, said he remembers a few weeks ago, on Easter Sunday, watching Cross release balloons in the air to honor her late grandmother.

It was something Russell said Cross and her mother, Tracy, did every year.

Russell said he knew Cross had problems with substance abuse, but that side of her seemed outweighed by her kind and loving spirit.

“She had a big love. If you were her friend, you had her whole heart. Total,” he said.

Other friends say they were aware of Cross and Clayton Courtney's relationship. One friend is former Evansville resident Maria Gorces, who lived with the Cross family in 2010. Gorces now is a recovering substance abuser and a counselor at The Watershed, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Gorces, who said Cross was "like my sister," said she'd known Cross had struggled with opiate and alcohol use in the past. Gorces said more recent Facebook postings made it evident Courtney and Cross were doing drugs together.

“I knew when they (Courtney and Cross) were together officially on Facebook, I knew Britney was not doing well. In pictures with him (Courtney) on Facebook, she'd look messed up,” Gorces said.

Gorces said she felt helpless dealing with the situation from Florida, but she had reached out to offer support to Cross and to Courtney, who Gorces said she doesn't know.

Indianford resident Nick Shumway, 22, said he'd met Cross about five weeks ago and was “kind of a boyfriend” to her. He said he believes Courtney was Cross' “ex-boyfriend,” someone she'd dated over the last year.

Shumway said based on social media postings, Courtney seemed “obsessive.” 

Shumway said he would pick up Cross at home some nights after he got off work. Shumway said Cross liked to sit with him on the beach at Lake Koshkonong late at night and look at the stars.

He said Cross seemed one of the most peaceful, kindest people he'd met.

“I just want to wake up out at the beach at Koshkonong and see her next to me, looking at the sky,” Shumway said.

Last updated: 9:00 pm Tuesday, May 6, 2014

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