By John L. Ross, Staff Writer
Several details emerged in Whitley County District Court Monday about last week’s robbery and assault at Young’s Grocery in Whitley County.
The married suspects, Roy William Lawson Jr., 36, and Rebecca Gari Lawson, 37, of Maple Creek Road, appeared before Judge Fred White in the standard orange jumpsuit and handcuffed for their preliminary hearings.
Roy Lawson is represented by Attorney B.J. Croley; Rebecca Lawson’s attorney is Public Defender Ron Findell.
The Lawsons face first-degree robbery charges in the April 9 robbery of Young’s Grocery on KY 904. Rebecca Lawson also faces first-degree criminal mischief charges.
County Attorney Bob Hammons called the only witness for Monday’s hearing, Whitley County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy K.Y. Fuson.
Fuson explained up front that Deputy Brian Lawson was the lead investigator on the case, adding that most of his knowledge was gleaned from his observation of the surveillance video which captured the scene.
He explained the case began with “what appears to be a shoplifting” incident.
Fuson testified that the store’s owner, Ruth Young, had barricaded Rebecca Lawson’s attempted re-entry into the store after allegedly witnessing her steal items from inside the store.
Instead of leaving the parking lot, Fuson said Rebecca Lawson came back again to the store. “They’re arguing outside the store,” Fuson testified about the video, adding that’s when he saw Roy Lawson emerge from the vehicle. “Then he’s on top of Ruth,” he said.
He explained there was no audio available with the surveillance video — only visual.
It was unclear what happened next, but Fuson said Young “takes her phone and hits” Roy Lawson in the face with it.
That’s when Fuson said Roy Lawson “hit an 82-year-old woman (Young) with a right hook,” making contact with the left side of her face.
“She falls back onto the bench,” Fuson said.
Further testimony from Fuson revealed witnesses at the scene stepped in to help.
“The men at the scene pushed the defendant away,” he said, adding that he “didn’t know why” the Lawsons wanted to return to the store.
Fuson then testified that Rebecca Lawson went to her vehicle and retrieved an axe handle, and “went toward Ruth (Young) again while (she) was on the bench.”
He testified that Roy Lawson also returned to the vehicle to retrieve “what looks like a tire iron,” although Fuson said he was not sure exactly what Roy Lawson was carrying in the video.
Fuson added the bystanders at the scene were able to get the weapons from the defendants.
“It was the craziest thing,” Fuson testified. “The Lawsons continuously came back toward Ms. Young.”
He said Roy Lawson kept getting hit with the confiscated weapons, as many as 10-15 times, but just kept trying to attack Ruth Young.
Fuson also said that Rebecca Lawson went to retrieve a gardening tool from the side of the store.
“At one point she grabbed a rake and went back to a vehicle (in the store’s parking lot) with kids in it and tried to hit the side of the car to do damage,” Fuson testified.
Croley was also given opportunity to question Fuson, who reiterated his knowledge of the case came from viewing surveillance footage.
Croley questioned whether Fuson actually saw his client, Roy Lawson, or Lawson’s wife steal anything from the store. Fuson had not.
Fuson did testify that Rebecca Lawson allegedly started the chain of events by attempting to shoplift baby diapers and feminine products from Young’s Grocery.
Croley asked several of the same questions as Hammons, who, after several minutes of Croley’s questioning, voiced his objection.
Croley questioned whether Roy Lawson required medical attention after being hit with a cell phone.
Fuson testified that he did, but then reiterated again how Roy Lawson just kept coming back again and again. “If (those) two gentlemen (hadn’t come) to that area to stand and protect her (Young), I don’t know what would’ve happened,” Fuson said. “I don’t know why he kept coming back (to the store) — I don’t know his intent.”
Fuson also testified that Roy Lawson’s charges stem from “a complicity issue in support of Ms. Lawson’s” alleged shoplifting.
Croley asked whether Fuson, during his investigation, ever knew whether Roy Lawson understood that his wife was stealing.
That brought a second objection from Hammons. “We’ve rehashed this over and over and over again,” Hammons said, adding that Fuson had already answered the attorney’s questions. “You ain’t listening — you’re writing too much,” Hammons told Croley.
Croley ended his questions then. That brought in Rebecca Lawson’s attorney, Findell.
Findell began by stating that shoplifting would be considered misdemeanor theft, which led to the “melee happening from there.”
Findell began asking questions about whether Fuson witnessed Rebecca Lawson actually steal the items from inside the store.
That’s when Hammons objected a third time, saying again this testimony had already been offered. White overruled that objection, and allowed Fuson to answer. Fuson said again that he didn’t know, and when Findell asked if his statements were based on “assumption,” Fuson answered “Yes.”
Findell ended his questioning, and no witnesses were called for the defense.
Croley then said Roy Lawson was charged with committing first-degree robbery, then defined what a suspect must be considered guilty of to receive that charge. Croley then argued that a suspect would have to be stealing something first — and referred to Fuson’s testimony that he hadn’t witnessed the actual alleged thefts from the store. Croley also suggested that Roy Lawson was coming to “the aid of his wife,” during the altercation.
Findell said that Croley’s statement, “was my summation, too.”
Hammons asked if Croley and Findell “were asleep during the whole hearing?”
Hammons added that the defendants went to the location to commit a robbery, and that the “good people of the neighborhood,” had come to the store owner’s assistance.
Findell began to make a statement, and Hammons demanded not to be interrupted.
Hammons finished his statement, and Croley then began to discuss bond for Roy Lawson. Croley explained that his client was determined to be a “moderate risk,” and mentioned that he has two minor children at home.
Hammons said the current bond set was “not enough.”
White agreed. “They’re a danger to the public,” he said.
Rebecca Lawson and Roy Lawson remain jailed at the Whitley County Detention Center. They each have a $25,000 cash bond.
By John L. Ross, Staff Writer
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