Crawford, who was freed in 2007, shot himself in the head Friday afternoon when confronted by police in the bathroom of a house not far from the house where his wife, his sister-in-law and three young children were found dead, said Police Lt. Thomas Stacho.
Police said Crawford is suspected of killing them. Cuyahoga County coroner's spokesman Powell Cesar confirmed Saturday that all five victims were shot in the head.
Crawford, 33, was divorced from his first wife about three months after writing the letter to Russo, records show. He married again recently, according to the father of his new wife, 30-year-old Lechea Crawford. She was one of the women killed in the couple's home Thursday night, and police say a 2-month-old baby found unharmed in the home is believed to be theirs.
Police Chief Michael McGrath said it appears that some sort of domestic argument sparked Thursday's shootings.
The two-story red-and-yellow wood frame home where Crawford died is located in a densely populated neighborhood. Several dozen people lined up behind yellow police tape across the street, cheering as a sheet-covered stretcher was removed from the house.
Dozens of people also gathered Friday evening about four blocks away, on the street where Thursday's slayings took place, to hold a candlelight vigil and rally. A memorial of more than a dozen stuffed animals had grown on the front steps.
Crawford has convicted in 1995 of voluntary manslaughter, according to prison records. He was released in 2000 and sent back to prison in 2002 on a felonious assault conviction involving domestic violence, prison records show.
In the 2005 letter, Crawford apologizes for firing a gun in his home and says, "I made an insensible choice in a moment of anger that could have actually cost me my wife and children. ... I now realize that when I make bad impulsive decisions, that I do not only hurt myself, but that I hurt everyone that love and cares for me as well, and especially my children."
He wrote that his then-wife had lung cancer and that he had a job and supporting family waiting for him. His wife, mother and others wrote Russo on his behalf, noting that he had three children at the time and had taken parenting and anger management courses and was studying dental lab technology.
While on parole, which ended last year, Crawford passed several drug tests, paid his child support, had a full-time job and no run-ins with authorities, according to Andrea Carson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Police searching for Crawford on Friday received a tip about his whereabouts and set up surveillance at the house where he was later seen by authorities, Stacho said. Officers forced their way through the front door and found Crawford hiding in the bathtub, officials said.
He fired one shot from a handgun, killing himself, said Jeff Carter, a U.S. Marshals Service spokesman.
"There was no standoff," Stacho said. "As they confronted him, he shot himself."
Summar Brown, who says she is Crawford's cousin, was in the house where Crawford was found and told police she is the owner.
Brown, 32, was arrested Friday for allegedly obstructing justice in connection with the search for Crawford, Stacho said. No charges had been filed against Brown but she was being held while police investigate, Stacho said Saturday. He did not say whether Brown had an attorney to speak for her.
Besides Lechea Crawford, killed were her sister Rose Stevens, 25, and Stevens' three children: 4-year-old Destanee Woods and 2-year-old twins Dion and Davion Primm.
A fifth child was wounded and was being treated at MetroHealth Medical Center, which withheld the 7-year-old's name and condition at the family's request. The child's wounds were not life threatening, Stacho said Saturday.
Two other boys in the house, ages 12 and 13, escaped unharmed and one called 911, officials said.