By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
While a Killeen man sits in prison guilty of rape and robbery, one of his victims has died of her injuries.
As a result, Carlos Milton Lawrence could face a murder charge.
On Aug. 2, Lawrence, a 22-year-old Killeen man, agreed to plead guilty to several first- and second-degree felony robberies committed in the first few months of 2006. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison on four counts of first-degree aggravated robbery and 20 years each for a pair of second-degree robberies.
But on Sunday, one of his victims, Kwi Majo, died of her injuries after spending 18 months comatose in a hospital bed.
As the family grieves, prosecutors mull over the case, which has been reopened after the death. Though Lawrence has been found guilty of the crimes, and no appeals are pending, some legal experts believe that Lawrence could now face a murder charge.
According to court records, on May 31, Lawrence took Majo, then owner of Helena's Beauty Supply on Rancier Avenue in Killeen, to the back room of the store at gunpoint. He then beat and raped her.
The family of the victim has requested privacy since Majo died and is planning to have a private service today.
Each aggravated robbery indictment listed a different victim; however, the charge in Majo's case listed a second felony count of aggravated sexual assault.
The robberies all took place during the first five months of 2006 – Jan. 30, Feb. 15, March 20, April 3, May 7 and May 31.
Since the case is now reopened, the district attorney's office will not comment on the details because it is again an active case.
First Assistant District Attorney Murff Bledsoe on Tuesday said his office is reviewing the case, and could not specify what aspects they are reviewing.
Lawrence's defense attorney Michael White said Tuesday that he doesn't believe the DA's office can bring any charges against his client, who is not eligible for parole until 2032.
White referred to the double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment that prevents someone from being prosecuted multiple times for the same offense.
"There's nothing that can go forward with it," White said. "The DA's office waited for a while, and I think they thought she was improving. But by entering his plea before her death, he may have saved himself from getting the death penalty."
Not so fast, says one defense attorney.
Jeff Parker works as a criminal defense attorney in Bell County and tries many similar cases to those of White. Parker said White's client is in trouble.
Parker said a notable ruling in Blockburger vs. the United States, a Supreme Court case, allows for the prosecution of an individual for the same crime under certain circumstances, and pays particular attention to the elements of each offense.
"The glaring additional element is 'causing the death of,'" Parker said Tuesday. "Because the offense of murder has separate elements than aggravated robbery, it's entirely possible that someone could be charged with murder.
"I don't think double jeopardy applies."
Parker argued that because the case was pleaded out and never presented to a jury, the burden goes to the defense to demonstrate why double jeopardy applies.
But he said that will never happen.
"The problem is that no judge ever took into consideration the fact that someone died because it's a different element," he said. "But how many years are enough? The DA has to consider if it's worth the taxpayers' money to tack on a few years. But (Lawrence) is a young guy, and realistically, he could get out one day. That's going to weigh heavily in the decision."
Contact Justin Cox at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7568