71-year-old man charged in Portsmouth homicide worked on city’s LOVE statue

Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot/TNS
·3 min read

A 71-year-old Portsmouth man who said he was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed a woman in his apartment Sunday was one of the artists who constructed the city’s LOVE sculpture in Olde Towne, according to court documents and a colleague.

Irving Wolff was charged with second-degree murder in the Sunday night shooting of 37-year-old Crystal Jacobs. In an interview with detectives shortly after the incident, Wolff told officials he shot Jacobs after she attacked him.

Describing the encounter to police, Wolff said Jacobs had asked him to take her to his bank to get money for drugs but he refused because he’d been drinking, according to court documents filed in Portsmouth General District Court. Wolff said Jacobs became irate and began throwing him around the apartment, then pushed him to the ground and grabbed him around the neck. Wolff said he broke free, drew his gun and the two fought over it.

Next, Wolff said he got control of the gun, fired a round into the ceiling, and then went and sat down. Jacobs jumped over a couch and attacked him again, and that’s when he shot her, the court document said. Wolff said he shot her a second time after she ran to the kitchen door, turned and pointed at him.

Wolff is one of the artists who worked on Portsmouth’s LOVE sculpture, which was erected next to the Crawford Bay seawall near Tidewater Yacht Marina in July 2016. Wolff served as a fabricator for the project, confirmed John Joyce, a co-founder of Support Portsmouth Public Art, the organization that oversaw the installation of the steel structure.

“Irving did a great job on the project for very little in return,” Joyce said Monday, noting he had not been aware of the charges against Wolff until he was contacted by a reporter. “He worked in blistering heat and rainy conditions to achieve his perfectionist self-approval. He is truly an artist.”

There are more than 300 LOVEworks sculptures across Virginia. The sculptures are a play on the state’s marketing slogan: Virginia is for Lovers.

Portsmouth police talked to next door and downstairs neighbors in the building — located in the 100 block of Florida Ave. in Port Norfolk — who said they heard two gunshots several minutes apart. After the second one, they heard someone falling down the rear metal stairs.

Shortly after neighbors heard the second gunshot, they said Wolff knocked on their door and asked them to call police. When officers arrived, they found Jacobs slumped on the driver’s seat of a car parked in the back of the building. She had a gunshot wound on her left side and was pronounced dead at the scene. Police didn’t see any wounds on Wolff, the document said.

Wolff is charged with second-degree murder and three firearm charges.

Wolff was taken into custody and released from the city jail on a $25,000 bond Monday evening. He could not be reached by phone following his release.

Jane Harper, 757-222-5097, jane.harper@pilotonline.com

Caitlyn Burchett, caitlyn.burchett@virginiamedia.com

Staff writer Ali Sullivan contributed to this report.