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Woman gets 25 years in prison in Lawson slaying case
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Amanda Gail Alexander was sentenced Tuesday under a plea agreement to serve 25 years in prison and pay one $2,500 fine for second-degree murder and several other charges in the death of Donald K. Lawson, a businessman and Republican Party activist.
Lawson, 58, was bludgeoned to death with a hatchet in his Martinsville home on May 24, 2011, officials have said.
Martinsville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joan Ziglar said she agreed to reduce the capital murder charge against Alexander to second-degree murder because Alexander cooperated with investigators.
Under the plea agreement, which Judge G. Carter Greer accepted, Alexander, 25, of Martinsville, pleaded guilty in Martinsville Circuit Court to the following charges and received the following sentences:
• Second-degree murder: 40 years in a state correctional facility, with 15 years suspended for life on the conditions that she be on probation for life, seek mental health counseling as deemed appropriate by her probation officer, take all prescription medication(s) as prescribed by a licensed clinical health professional, pay a $2,500 fine and agree not to seek an appeal and/or a pardon for this conviction. She has to serve 25 years of the sentence.
• Robbery: 30 years in a state correctional facility suspended for life on the conditions that she be on probation for life, seek mental health counseling as deemed appropriate by her probation officer, take all prescription medication(s) as prescribed by a licensed clinical health professional, pay a fine of $2,500, and agree not to seek an appeal and/or a pardon for this conviction.
• Conspiracy to commit murder: 10 years in a state correctional facility.
• Statutory burglary while armed with a deadly weapon: 30 years in a state correctional facility.
• Grand larceny of a motor vehicle: 20 years in a state correctional facility.
The conspiracy, burglary and grand larceny sentences all were suspended for life on the same conditions as the robbery case.
Ziglar pointed out there is only a single $2,500 fine under the plea agreement for all the charges.
Greer said the maximum possible sentences are 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, life in prison each for armed statutory burglary and robbery, and 20 years in prison each for conspiracy to commit murder and grand larceny.
The judge noted that Alexander’s only previous conviction was a misdemeanor. That was a bad check conviction, Andrew Hall, one of the lawyers representing Alexander, said in an interview.
In July, Greer sentenced Kenneth Brian Smith of Martinsville, Alexander’s boyfriend and Lawson’s former stepson, to life in prison without the possibility of parole in Lawson’s death. Smith, 42, pleaded guilty to capital murder and several other charges.
Tuesday in circuit court, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Paula Bowen read a summary of the evidence, which says, among other things, that Lawson’s health was poor. He had great difficulty walking and getting out of a resting chair, so he typically slept in the chair through the night, she said.
In the days before May 24, 2011, Smith and Alexander agreed they would rob Lawson (Smith told Alexander that Lawson had a lot of money), steal his van and use the money and vehicle to leave Martinsville, according to the summary. Soon, Smith began stating that he would need to “go in hard,” by which he meant he would have to kill Lawson, the summary stated. Alexander knew that was what he meant, and she continued to help plan and go along with the scheme, it stated.
In the late hours of May 23, 2011, Smith and Alexander went around the back of Lawson’s house at 806 Parkview Ave. and waited there for several hours for Lawson to seat himself in his chair, the summary stated. Smith was armed with a block of wood for breaking the glass and a hatchet, with which he intended to kill Lawson, it added.
At about 2:30 a.m. May 24, Lawson was sitting in his chair, and Smith broke into the home, according to the summary. Lawson, unable to get up, yelled for help. Smith hacked at Lawson with the hatchet, cutting Lawson on the head seven times, the summary stated. Alexander, waiting outside, heard Lawson begging Smith to stop, it added.
Wounds consistent with defensive wounds were found on Lawson’s arms, and several cuts and scrapes were found on Lawson’s chest and abdomen, the summary stated. A medical examiner determined Lawson died from blunt force trauma, including multiple fractures to the skull and seven chop wounds, it added.
Also according to the summary, Alexander stated she waited 10-15 minutes for Lawson to stop making noises. She then entered the house through another entrance and used the bathroom, it stated. In the meantime, Smith ransacked the house for money and valuables, taking a small amount of cash, a TV, other electronic devices and a .357 Magnum revolver belonging to Lawson, the summary stated.
After taking several other items out of the home, Smith and Alexander got into Lawson’s van and drove away, according to the summary.
Smith and Alexander drove east on U.S. 58, stopping just across the Pittsylvania County line in Axton to dispose of Smith’s clothing and the hatchet used to kill Lawson, the summary stated. They went to a pawn shop in Danville, where on the morning of May 24 they sold most of the property they had stolen from Lawson, it stated. They received $520 in cash.
Smith and Alexander proceeded to Sandston in Henrico County, where they got a room at an motel, according to the summary. They were found driving Lawson’s van in Henrico County on the evening of May 24, where they were stopped and arrested by Henrico police, the summary added.
Swabs of two blood drops in the laundry room of Lawson’s home and a swab of a blood stain on the TV that was pawned were shown to contain Smith’s DNA, the summary stated.
Ziglar said Alexander’s cooperation was crucial to the commonwealth’s case. Although Alexander at first denied being involved, she later gave a full account of her and Smith’s actions and did other things such as lead investigators to the murder weapon and to where items were pawned, Ziglar said.
Vikram Kapil of the public defender’s office said in court Tuesday that Alexander had been willing to testify against Smith if he had gone to trial.
Andrew Hall said in an interview that Alexander’s “culpability was nowhere near Mr. Smith’s.”
Ziglar said in an interview the community “lost a very good person,” referring to Lawson. “It’s very sad how he spent his last few moments on this Earth. It was a privilege and an honor to be able to handle these cases. I didn’t know him well, but everything I knew of him was good.”