ESCONDIDO — One thing is certain, when the police arrived at Jeanette Lawrence’s Escondido apartment nearly two years ago, she suffered from a broken rib, nose and orbital socket as well as puncture wounds, cuts to her hands, severe bruising and a sprained ankle, prosecutors said.
Now that the case is in the hands of the jury, the panel will have to determine if Lawrence was the victim of a relationship rife with domestic violence or if she was the mastermind behind a plot, which included her inflicting the laundry list of injuries on herself, to have her now ex-husband murdered in jail.
Tommy Lee Williams’ case went to the jury April 27 after attorneys gave their closing arguments. The panel of six men and six women is now tasked with determining if Williams, 45, is guilty of a multitude of misdemeanor and felony counts relating to the Oct. 27, 2007, incident, which include attempted murder, torture and false imprisonment.
Prosecutor Marnie McGee told the panel Williams was “fully committed” to his murder suicide plan when he dove through Lawrence’s bedroom window after she wouldn’t answer her door or take his phone calls. She said he then attacked her with a barbecue fork and a dinner fork, and then beat and dragged her throughout the house toying with her like a cat playing with a mouse.
“He needed for her to suffer,” McGee said.
Prior to the attack, McGee said Lawrence had filed for a divorce. She said Lawrence had been the victim of years of domestic violence at the hands of Williams.
During the approximately 30-minute attack, McGee said Williams told Lawrence, “This is the day you are going to die. When you are not breathing, I’m going to get in my car and drive 150 mph into a wall.”
Further, McGee said this was a classic case of a “murder interrupted.” She said four neighbors, who came to check on Lawrence after seeing her busted window, broke up the attack.
Williams’ attorney, Herb Weston, argued throughout the trial and his closing argument that the whole incident was a plot perpetrated by the victim. In dramatic fashion, Weston took the witness stand as Lawrence and gave a pseudo confession as to how Lawrence’s master plan unfolded to have Williams murdered in Vista jail.
“We have the plot,” Weston said. “We have the end goal right there.”
At the heart of his theory is a prison phone call between Lawrence and her son in which the two talk about the murder being “green lighted” by her son’s prison skinhead gang, Weston said.
A letter placed in her work file that stated “if something should happen to me … it was Williams” and not requesting a stay away order when a judge granted a protection order between the couple two months prior to the October incident, are just a couple of examples of Lawrence “puppeteering” the plot, Weston said. Additionally, he said Lawrence manipulated her brother, who she had arrested just before her son and Williams were incarcerated.
McGee refuted Weston’s theory saying it was a way to “distract” the jurors from the evidence and the truth.
Further, she said the recorded prison phone call was simply Lawrence’s son venting his anger toward Williams for the abuse he and his mother suffered from him over the years. McGee said Lawrence knew she was being recorded and was simply trying to appease and calm her son by agreeing with him that Williams needed to be killed for what he did.
Williams remains in custody in lieu of $1.03 million bail. If convicted, he could be sentenced to more than two decades in prison.