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Darrell MEASE





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Vietnam veteran and aspiring drug dealer
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: May 15, 1988
Date of arrest: January 1989
Date of birth: 1946
Victims profile: Lloyd J. Lawrence, 69 (drug-dealing partner); his wife, Frankie M. Lawrence, 56; and their paraplegic grandson, William Lawrence, 19
Method of murder: Shooting (12-gauge shotgun)
Location: Missouri, USA
Status: Sentenced to death in 1990. Commuted to life without parole at request of Pope on January 27, 1999

State of Missouri v. Darrell Mease

842 S.W. 2d 98 (Mo. banc 1992)

During 1987 Darrell Mease became acquainted with Lloyd Lawrence and participated in the manufacture and sales of methamphetamine. Lawrence told Mease that he would teach him how to manufacture the drug. When this did not occur the relationship between the two men became strained.

In late 1987 Lawrence gave Mease some pills which made him sick. Fearing for his safety Mease and his girlfriend, Mary Epps, left the Taney County, Missouri area in December 1987. Before leaving Mease took four pounds of crank and four bottles of a chemical used in the manufacturing process from Lawrence. He placed the goods in a backpack and hid them in the Reed Springs, Missouri area.

Mease and Epps then traveled across country until they returned to Missouri in May 1988. Mease had learned in a telephone conversation with his mother that Lawrence was going to kill him. Mease decided he needed to return to Missouri in order to settle his differences with Lawrence.

Mease built a concealed position for himself near the road that led to the Lawrence residence. At about noon on May 15, 1988 Mease observed Lloyd, his wife Frankie and their grandson Willie Lawrence riding four wheeled all terrain vehicles. Willie passed Mease who was hiding in a nearby wooded area. As Lloyd and Frankie Lawrence passed Mease he fired twice with a shotgun hitting Lloyd and Frankie. Mease then shot Lloyd a second time with the shotgun. Mease then came out of his hiding spot. Willie Lawrence then turned around and Mease shot Willie Lawrence with the shotgun. Mease then shot each member of the Lawrence family in the head with the shotgun. Mease took Lloyd’s wallet, a watch and two rings. He removed $600 from the wallet and hid it under a nearby log.

Mease then made his escape with Mary Epps and they left Missouri traveling to various states across the country. In January 1989 Mease was arrested in Arizona on two outstanding felony nonsupport warrants from Stone County, Missouri and an Unlawful Use of a Weapons warrant from Taney County, Missouri. He was returned to Missouri where he confessed to the murders of the Lawrences.


Death sentence commuted at request of Pope. Darrell Mease was scheduled to be executed on the day Pope John Paul the second arrived in Missouri in 1999 for a 31-hour visit. Mease faced the death penalty because of the murders of three people in southwest Missouri. His execution was delayed until after the Pope had gone home. It never happened. The Pope asked Carnahan to show mercy to Mease. A few days later, Carnahan commuted Mease's sentence to life without parole.


Missouri governor grants Pope's plea

By Paul Sloca - The Augusta Chronicle

January 30, 1999

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Gov. Mel Carnahan honored a personal request for mercy from Pope John Paul II and spared a triple murderer from the death chamber this past Thursday, a day after the pontiff strongly condemned capital punishment in a visit to St. Louis.

Carnahan, a Baptist, commuted Darrell Mease's death sentence to life without parole. Mease, 52, was convicted of killing a drug-dealing partner and the man's wife and grandson in southwest Missouri in 1988.

Mease was supposed to be executed on Feb. 10, although it originally had been scheduled for the week of the pope's visit, then was postponed with no explanation.

Carnahan, a popular Democrat planning a run for Senate next year, said the pope did not address specifics of Mease's case. The governor also said he does not plan to look differently at other death penalty cases.

"I continue to support capital punishment, but after careful consideration of his direct and personal appeal and because of a deep and abiding respect for the pontiff and all he represents, I decided last night to grant his request,'' Carnahan said Thursday.

The commutation was a rare victory for the pope, who has failed in other attempts to block U.S. executions, most recently that of Karla Faye Tucker, who was put to death in Texas last year for two pickax killings.

The pope praised the "generous decision'' of the governor when he learned the news, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said Thursday.

Laura Higgins Tyler, an attorney for Mease, said the inmate was "awestruck.''

"Darrell has remained very steadfast to his faith in that he would receive relief from God,'' she said. "I'd say this sure looks like a miracle to me.''

During a morning Mass on Wednesday at the Trans World Dome in St. Louis, the pope made his most explicit anti-death penalty comments ever in the United States.

"I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary,'' the pope said in his 30-minute homily.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, met with Carnahan and relayed the pope's plea for Mease. Later, the pope, after a prayer service at a St. Louis church, came down off the altar and personally asked the governor to ``extend mercy'' to Mease, Carnahan said.

In July 1997, the pope appealed on behalf of Joseph O'Dell, an inmate in Virginia condemned to die for the rape, torture and murder of a woman. O'Dell was executed.

One of his earliest death-penalty pleas was for Paula Cooper, in 1987. The 18-year-old Indiana woman was sentenced to death for the stabbing of an elderly Bible teacher. Her sentence was commuted to 60 years.

Carnahan's decision could hurt him in his challenge of Republican Sen. John Ashcroft, because most Missouri voters favor capital punishment, political analysts said.

"God help him if there are any grieving relatives, because he will need the pope to come back to campaign for him,'' said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.

Mease murdered Lloyd J. Lawrence, 69; his wife, Frankie M. Lawrence, 56; and their grandson, William Lawrence, 19, on May 15, 1988. Mease confessed that he had hidden along a path near the Lawrences' farmhouse and shot them with a 12-gauge shotgun while they rode by on all-terrain vehicles.

The state Department of Corrections had been trying for two months to track down relatives of the victims, a standard practice prior to an execution, but hasn't been able to find anyone.

There have been 26 executions carried out during Carnahan's two terms in office, and another 87 people are waiting on death row. Carnahan has only once before removed an inmate from death row -- he commuted two-time killer Bobby Shaw's sentence to life imprisonment in 1993 because jurors never heard about Shaw's mental retardation.

Jim Justus, who was the lead prosecutor in the case against Mease, said he still feels Mease deserves to be executed and told Carnahan of his feelings.

"I'm disappointed with his decision,'' Justus said, "but I respect it.''


Condemned Man Whose Life Was Saved By Pope Speaks Out

By Bob Priddy -

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Thousands of people believe Pope John Paul the Second saved their spiritual lives. But one Missourian believes the Pope saved his physical life. Darrell Mease was scheduled to be executed on the day Pope John Paul the second arrived in Missouri for a 31-hour visit. Mease faced the death penalty because of the murders of three people in southwest Missouri. His execution was delayed until after the Pope had gone home. It never happened.

A few electric seconds between the Pope and Governor Mel Carnahan made the difference. The Pope asked Carnahan to show mercy to Mease. A few days later, Carnahan commuted Mease's sentence to life without parole. Mease believes the Pople was sent to Missouri by God at that specific time to save him. Mease says he is a born-again Christian. He dismisses talk that he is alive today because of publicity and circumstance. It was God's will, he says, just as it will be God's will that he will someday walk out of the prison at Potosi a free man.


Darrell Mease