NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Outspoken defense attorney Chris Crobaugh died of a massive heart attack Tuesday at the age of 61.
“He was a loving and caring person, he really was, beneath that rough exterior,” said Susan Crobaugh, his wife of 25 years.
Lawyers remembered him fondly Tuesday as news of his death spread through the county Justice Center.
“It’s a real loss to the profession because Chris Crobaugh was a true believer,” said county Common Pleas Judge James Burge, who lunched with Crobaugh regularly. “He was not in the profession to make money. Whatever he did, he believed in.”
Before he became a lawyer in 1999, Crobaugh had a varied career.
He served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, where he was shot by a sniper while working on a microwave tower about three stories up. Susan Crobaugh said her husband had to crawl three days to make it back to his base after falling.
After leaving the military, Crobaugh became a plane and helicopter pilot and a flight instructor in Tennessee. He later taught himself to play steel guitar, attorney Zachary Simonoff said.
Crobaugh was good enough to play in the band of country star Jeannie C. Riley and even played at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville under the stage name Chick Donner, Simonoff said. He also appeared on the old television show “Hee Haw” a few times as a member of the band, his wife said.
Crobaugh, a Medina native, had continued to play locally after he became an attorney and waged battles on behalf of the little guy.
“As far as he was concerned, his client was always innocent,” said J.D. Andrews, bailiff for Common Pleas Judge Edward Zaleski.
Defense attorney Mike Duff said Crobaugh would fight as hard as he could for his clients.
“He was great because he challenged everything the government and police did,” Duff said.
County Bar Association President Kreig Brusnahan said Crobaugh wasn’t afraid to speak out even when what he had to say wasn’t politically correct.
Crobaugh, Brusnahan said, was instrumental in convincing the Bar Association to oppose a domestic violence display in the Justice Center that Crobaugh feared might influence jurors. In the end, Crobaugh prevailed and the display was removed.
“He was a quintessential type of defense attorney — very aggressive, very steadfast in his opinions,” Brusnahan said.
North Ridgeville Mayor Dave Gillock said he clashed with Crobaugh on issues in the city, including traffic lights Crobaugh believed were illegal — once going so far as to deliberately run a red light in front of a police officer to prove a point.
“Chris was someone that I very much respected,” Gillock said. “He always had an opinion, but he cared about his city."
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.