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EXCLUSIVE: Hero or con? Holland Tunnel guns suspect defends his honor

ZIONSVILLE, Penn. – When PIX11 drove more than two hours to the Allentown area of Pennsylvania—seeking the Holland Tunnel gun suspect who was finally released from a New Jersey jail last Thursday—we found John Cramsey sitting dejectedly, outside his “Higher Ground Tactical” gun range that he has to clear out by Thursday.

“I miss this place so bad,” Cramsey told PIX 11, as he allowed us inside to see a space now devoid of weapons, ammunition, and customers. “I wish I could re-open it.”

Cramsey sat down with PIX11 inside the range, talking at length about his case, his life, and his detractors.

“This is the plague,” he said of the heroin crisis that took his 20-year-old daughter’s life back on February 21. “It’s killing anything in its path.”

The 51-year-old Cramsey lashed back at former business associates and his ex-wife, who accuse Cramsey of using his daughter, Alexandria’s, death to get attention. A former partner at the gun range, Ted Hockfelder, called Cramsey a "con man" and said he lost $100,000 in a joint venture with the Holland Tunnel suspect. How does Cramsey feel about the characterization?

“I don’t care. The only person who’s going to judge me in the end is God,” Cramsey said. “Whatever anyone in the world thinks about me, I’ll hold my head up high, knowing there are kids who got back with their parents.”

J. Layne Turner—a drug and alcohol administrator with Lehigh County in Pennsylvania—does credit Cramsey with getting at least three young people into treatment, in the weeks before Cramsey was arrested at the Holland Tunnel with a truck full of guns.

On Wednesday night, Cyndi Gaston—a Pennsylvania mom—wrote to PIX11 on Facebook, saying “John Cramsey supporter here. John saved my son’s life a few months ago. My son tried everything to get into a rehab; he was desperate. He heard of John, called him, and within minutes, John came and got my son and got him into detox at a rehab.”

Cramsey can use the good press. He was called a wanna-be vigilante back on June 21 when his “monster” truck was stopped at the Holland Tunnel, a vehicle that featured decals with slogans like “Shoot your local heroin dealer.”

He was traveling with Kimberly Arendt, a Pennsylvania woman who had received text messages from a 16-year-old girl. The teen said she was stuck in a Brooklyn drug den, and her friend from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania was dead on the bed next to her from a heroin overdose.

Cramsey said he was moved to help the girl, when he got a 3:30 a.m. phone call, “knowing the trauma she was going through, with her girlfriend being zipped up in a body bag right next to her.” The person who was driving Cramsey’s truck was Dean Smith, who was planning to take pictures of Cramsey’s ‘rescue’ and was also working on a TV pilot.

Cramsey’s ex-wife, Gina, is very angry that John Cramsey spoke at countless town hall meetings about his daughter’s death, which the coroner ruled was caused by a mix of heroin and the highly potent, fentanyl.

“He was not even part of her life, so who was he to use her name publicly?” Gina Cramsey asked PIX11 angrily. “He never even discussed it with me! I raised her and I raised her alone.”

Cramsey told PIX11 there were things he regretted in his life, and we asked him if he’d ever used drugs. His response? “I’ve done just about everything in the book….marijuana, I’ve done speed,” Cramsey said. When asked if he’d used meth, Cramsey responded, “Yes, yes I have.” But Cramsey claimed he was always scared to do heroin.

Gina Cramsey isn’t convinced her daughter was experimenting with heroin, before the deadly overdose.

“I think maybe it might have been put in marijuana,” Ms. Cramsey told PIX11.

Gina Cramsey showed us stunning photos of Alexandria Cramsey, known as Lexii, as a baby, toddler, adolescent, and aspiring model. Lexii had even narrated a YouTube video called “It Gets Better,” to share her own experiences as a bullied child. The video was shot before Lexii had her teeth fixed for modeling. It is very impactful.

“She was bullied at school and turned out to be this beautiful model,” Gina Cramsey said. She told PIX11 people have come up to her since Lexii died and said, “Your daughter helped me. Your daughter stopped me from committing suicide.”

Gina Cramsey met us at a house near Allentown where former business partners of John Cramsey had gathered. Most were former employees from Higher Ground Tactical, who said there wasn’t a proper air filtration system at the gun range—and the lead levels in their blood were elevated, as a result. Some of the employees are blaming Cramsey. Cramsey is blaming Ted Hockfelder.

“Ted’s going to see me in court, “Cramsey told PIX11. “Ted’s lied to OSHA, the U.S. government, and the employees trying to sue me.”

Ted Hockfelder shot back, “Simply stated: his anti-drug crusade is his new con.”