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Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 4
Date of murder: August 6, 1992
Date of arrest: Same day (surrenders)
Date of birth: June 29, 1961
Victims profile: Michelle Lawrie, 25 (his estranged wife), two of the couple's children and a neighbor's child
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife - Fire
Location: Kent County, Delaware, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Delaware on April 23, 1999

A Delaware man who fatally stabbed his wife and set a fire that killed three children was executed.

David J. Lawrie, 37, confessed to the killings and did not request a pardon in the days leading up to his execution. He was pronounced dead at 12:17 a.m. after being injected with three drugs. "I would like to thank my family and friends for being by my side all the way," he said moments before his death. "I would not have made it this far without my family." Lawrie's last meal included two bacon cheeseburgers, french fries, and a chocolate milkshake.

On August 6, 1992, After his estranged wife filed for divorce, Lawrie walked to their house, doused it with gasoline and set it ablaze. He then broke into a bedroom where Mrs. Lawrie, their daughters, and two children Mrs. Lawrie was babysitting were hiding, stabbed Michelle Lawrie in the chest, and escaped through a window. Only Lisa Humbertson, then 8 years old, survived. She testified that Michelle Lawrie handed her out the window to her estranged husband, but when Mrs. Lawrie tried to escape, he shoved her back inside.

Her 3-year-old brother, Charles Humbertson, and two of the Lawries' children, 4-year-old Fawn and 2-year-old Tabitha, died in the fire along with Mrs. Lawrie.

Lawrie was convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to death on July 8, 1993.


David J. Lawrie, 37, 99-04-23, Delaware

Convicted murderer David J. Lawrie was executed early this morning.

The killer of 4 was declared dead by lethal injection at 12:17 a.m. at Delaware Correctional Center.

Lawrie, 37, admitted killing his estranged wife Michelle, 2 daughters and another child in a home in the Dover suburb Rodney Village on the morning of August 6, 1992.

James B. Clark, who was put to death on April 19, 1996, was the last to be executed in the state.

Before Lawrie, Delaware had executed 8 people since 1992 - 7 by chemical injection and 1, Billy Bailey in January 1996, by hanging.

There are currently 19 people sentenced to death in Delaware.

Lawrie had been on death row since his 1993 conviction in the murders of his wife, 2 of their children, 4-year-old Fawn and 2-year-old Tabitha, and a friend's child, 3-year-old Charles Humbertson.

Lawrie, who said he had been high on drugs prior to the killing, set the house on fire by lighting gasoline he had poured on the floor. He then stabbed his wife in the chest as she cowered in a back bedroom with the 3 children.

A last-ditch effort to hold off the execution failed when the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request for an appeal earlier this week.

Lawrie's attorney, Gary F. Traynor, said the high court refused requests for a stay of execution and a review of the case.

Lawrie told his attorneys not to take the case before the Delaware Board of Pardons.

Gov. Thomas R. Carper chose not to intervene because he has not in any other executions since he took office, according to his spokesman, Anthony Farina.

According to comments from friends, in the days prior to the execution Lawrie had "come to terms with it."

"He knows what he did is wrong and he knows his time is coming," said Ronald Sharp, best man at the wedding of David and Michelle Lawrie.

It took almost 7 years to bring to a close a chapter that began in a rage of fire ad smoke in a modest home south of Dover.

There had been no doubt about his guilt in the case since witnesses and investigators testified in court to what Lawrie had admitted.

"I guess he just loved her too much and wasn't going to let her go," Mr. Sharp said earlier this week.

"In my 25 years of fire investigations, this was the worst I have ever investigated," said deputy fire marshal Robert J. Montgomery. "It is a case I will never forget."

(source: Delaware News)


David Lawrie executed

Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty staged a rally in front of Legislative Hall Thursday as the final hours of David J. Lawrie's life ticked away.

Essentially the same group gathered later at the Delaware Correctional Center for a candlelight vigil outside the execution trailer where Lawrie was to die.

More than 75 protesters gathered Thursday night at the Smyrna Rest Stop to be escorted by State Police to a vigil adjacent to the prison.

At approximately 11 p.m., the group was taken to within 800 feet of the execution trailer, where it stood vigil in an area cordoned off by snow fences.

State police and prison guards stood watch as the group lit candles and raised placards as midnight neared.

The protesters pulled a large brass bell on a trailer to the site.

"The bell is our symbol," said Kevin O'Connell, a leading anti-death penalty advocate in the state.

"We use it for a number of reasons - for the victims of violent crimes, for the condemned, the family members of the condemned and the family members of the victims. For us, it is a symbol of truth."

Mr. O'Connell coordinated the night gathering.

He asked participants to sign a moratorium asking the state to adopt the position taken by the American Bar Association, which called last year for a nationwide moratorium on the death penalty.

"We're getting a cross-section of people from Delaware (to sign)," said Mr. O'Connell.

3 clergy members - Fr. Barry Langley, a Franciscan friar from Wilmington; Rev. Richard Reissmann, pastor of St. John's Holy Angels Church in Wilmington; and Brother Stephen Strausbaugh, former Catholic chaplain at DCC - took part in the night vigil.

Some protesters offered comments during the afternoon rally. Others paraded in front of the building. They carried placards reading "Abolish the death penalty", "Execute justice, not people" and "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind (Gandhi)."

A handful of passers-by stopped to listen. A few smartly dressed legislative aides paused briefly before hurrying up the steps into the capitol.

One lone pro-death penalty advocate circled around and around the building in a pickup truck with a sign reading, "I support De. death penalty laws."

For the most part, the demonstrators spoke to themselves.

Dover resident Anne Coleman said the United States is the only industrial nation in the western world to still have the death penalty.

"One of these days the United States is going to wake up and find its trading partners in Europe are pulling out," Ms. Coleman said. "This is one of the states that still executes mentally-retarded people. Shame, shame on Delaware. Healing cannot occur by putting violence into its place."

Jeanne Wilhelm lives in Luther Towers in Dover.

"God is the creator of life and God alone is responsible for taking life," she said. "That is a judgment I would not want on my conscience."

Ms. Wilhelm said Delaware calls itself the First State because it was the 1st to "sign a Constitution guaranteeing human rights." But with a death penalty still on the books, "how do those 2 fit together?" she asked.

Camden attorney Sandra Dean carried a sign reading "Abolish the death penalty." Ms. Dean works as a public defender in Kent County.

"I represented David Lawrie in Family Court the day before the murders, so I've followed this case more closely than some others," Ms. Dean said. "It was a completely unremarkable hearing, like many others. I remember his wife asked for him not to go to jail. She just wanted him to leave her alone."

According to court records, Lawrie and his estranged wife had a confrontation in which he threatened to kill her. She had him arrested for terroristic threatening and offensive touching. He pleaded guilty to terroristic threatening in Family Court on Aug. 5, 1992, and was released with orders to have no contact with his wife.

A day later, Michelle Lawrie and 3 young children were dead.

Ms. Dean said she remains firmly against Delaware's capital punishment law. She also said she's not the only member of the legal community with that view.

"I think there's a sad lack of people from the bar and clergy here today," she said. "Those are the groups that should be out here."

Jonathan Pearson, acting deputy director for Amnesty International's mid-Atlantic region office in Washington, D.C., added his support. He said his organization stands firmly against capital punishment in any form.

"Tonight, the state of Delaware is going to continue the cycle of violence," he said.

"Tonight the state of Delaware is going to continue the cycle of killing, and tonight the state of Delaware is going to continue the cycle of premeditated killing. . . . There are hundreds of thousands of other people who share your beliefs. Keep fighting."

Donald Goldsborough, 28, of Smyrna, stopped his truck with the pro-death penalty sign to talk with a reporter.

"I think it's a good deterrent, for one thing," he said. "It's not full payment, but when somebody is found guilty of murder, it's part of a way to pay. I believe God would have the state penalize people who commit murder that way."

Mr. Goldsborough said he became interested in the Lawrie case because his brother-in-law used to work for the family of one of the victims.

Was he surprised to hear Lawrie stabbed 3 prison guards late Wednesday?"Just a little bit, but then again, no," he said. "Anybody capable of committing the crime he committed could do that too, so I guess it's not too surprising."

(source: Delaware News)




Dover resident David J. Lawrie, who murdered his wife and three young children during a drug-induced rage in 1992, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection April 23 at the Delaware Correctional Center in Smyrna. 

Lawrie, 37, has been on Delaware's death row since July 1993. He was sentenced to death after a jury voted 9-3 that the aggravating circumstances of his crime far outweighed any mitigating factors.  He was convicted following the Aug. 6, 1992, deaths of his estranged wife, 25-year-old Michelle Lawrie, two of the couple's children and a neighbor's child. 

Testimony and court documents revealed that Lawrie, who lived two blocks away, broke in the front door of his wife's home just south of the Dover city limits. He said he had spent a sleepless night, high on cocaine, and was angry at her because she had filed for divorce. 

The hour was early and Michelle Lawrie was home. So were two of the couple's children - 2-year-old Tabatha and Fawn, 4. Michelle also was babysitting two other children, Charles Humbertson, 3, and Charles' sister, Lisa, who was 7.  A third Lawrie child, Marcus, 7, lived with David Lawrie. 

After kicking in the front door, Lawrie poured gasoline throughout the residence while Michelle and the children were still inside.  He then broke into a bedroom where Michelle, their daughters, and the other 2 children were hiding, stabbed Michelle in the chest, and escaped through a window. 

Only Lisa Humbertson, then 8 years old, survived. She testified that Michelle handed her out the window to her estranged husband, but when Michelle tried to escape, he shoved her back inside.  Her brother, Charles, and two of the Lawries' children, Fawn and 2-year-old Tabitha, died in the fire along with Michelle. 

Lisa was treated at the hospital for minor injuries and released.  Lawrie left the fire scene and ran almost a mile to a stranger's house.  Bloodied and dazed, he told the man he had just hurt his wife and kids and asked him to call police. He surrendered without incident. 

Autopsy reports from the state Medical Examiner's Office reported Michelle died of stab wounds to her chest and smoke inhalation. The three children also died of smoke inhalation. 

He was convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of the children and second-degree murder for killing his wife.



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