Gary Lawrence was sentenced to death by the State of Florida for the murder of Michael Finken. According to court documents Gary Lawrence was jealous of his ex wife’s new boyfriend so he would break into the home and murder Michael Finkin. Gary Lawrence would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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Shortly after Gary and Brenda Lawrence were married, they separated, and another man, Michael Finken, moved in with Brenda and her two daughters, Stephanie and Kimberly Pitts, and Stephanie’s friend, Rachel Matin. On the day of the murder, July 28, 1994, Gary and Michael drove Brenda to work and then drank beer at a friend’s house. Later, Gary and Michael picked Brenda up and the three returned to the friend’s house where they drank more beer. After the three returned to Brenda’s apartment, Gary and Michael argued and Gary hit Michael when he learned that Michael had been sleeping with Brenda. Gary and Michael seemed to resolve their differences, and Michael fell asleep on the couch. Gary and Brenda conversed, and Brenda went through the house collecting weapons-including a pipe and a baseball bat. Gary and Brenda told Kimberly and Rachel that they were “going to knock off Mike.” Gary told Kimberly to “stay in your bedroom no matter what you hear.”
The trial court described what happened after Gary and Brenda spoke to the girls:
Thereafter, the two girls heard what they described as a pounding sound. At one point, Rachel Matin stated that she heard the victim say, “stop it, if you stop, I’ll leave.” She stated that she heard that statement several times. Kimberly Pitts stated she heard the victim say “please don’t hit me, I’m already bleeding.” The victim’s pleas, however, were met with more pounding. Once the pounding stopped, the girls were required to assist in the clean up and described to the jury what they observed. Kimberly stated that much of the victim’s right side of his face was missing and his chin was knocked over to his ear. Rachel Matin stated that there was no skin left on the victim’s face and part of his nose was missing. Apparently the victim was still alive. Kimberly observed her mother coming out of the kitchen area with what appeared to be a dagger and then, although not seeing the dagger in her hand at the time, observed her mother make a stabbing motion toward the victim with something in her hand.
It was at that time when Brenda Lawrence requested that the girls obtain the assistance of Chris Wetherbee. Upon his entrance into the home, Chris Wetherbee observed the victim’s head being caved in, blood all over, the victim’s eyeball protruding approximately three inches and a mop handle shoved into the victim’s throat. Wetherbee asked Gary Lawrence, “what’s going on?” At which time the Defendant responded by pulling out the mop handle and kicking the victim and making the statement “this is what’s going on.” Immediately after removing the mop handle from the victim’s throat, Wetherbee heard the victim give approximately three or four ragged breaths at which time the victim thereafter stopped breathing and apparently expired. The Defendant, Gary Lawrence, told Wetherbee that he had beat him with a pipe until it bent and then beat him with a baseball bat.
Chris Wetherbee summarized the victim’s state: “And [he] looked like something off of one of the real good horror movies.” Gary and Brenda then removed a small amount of money from Michael’s pockets, wrapped the body in a shower curtain and placed the body in Michael’s car, and Gary drove to a secluded area where he set the body afire. When Gary returned home, he and Brenda danced.
Gary Lawrence was arrested later that evening driving Michael’s car and subsequently confessed, admitting that he had beaten Michael because Michael had been sleeping with Brenda. Lawrence was charged with first-degree murder, robbery, grand theft of a motor vehicle, and conspiracy to commit murder. At trial, the medical examiner testified as follows: Michael died of blunt trauma and possible asphyxia; Michael was alive when the mop handle was thrust down his throat; Michael’s blood alcohol level was very high; and one or more of the blows to Michael’s head could have caused loss of consciousness. Lawrence was convicted of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, auto theft, and petty theft.
During the penalty phase, Lawrence presented testimony of a brother, a psychologist, and a psychiatrist. The court followed the jury’s nine-to-three vote and imposed a sentence of death