This is the seventh installment in the Last Meals series from Historydojo. Please find the sixth installment here. Start from the beginning with the first Last Meals post here.
“Stacey Lamont Lawton, 31, was executed by lethal injection on 14 November in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of a homeowner during a burglary. “1
On Christmas Eve 1992, Lawton, then 23, and two accomplices were burglarizing cars and trucks in the neighborhood of Dennis Price, 44.
The timing of this tragedy makes it even harder to accept. It was Christmas Eve, a time of family, friends and warm feelings. This is a ight when traditionally people are hoe. People are celebrating and are in groups. People are giving thanks for their good fortune and celebrating with others the bounty of a life.
Unless they aren’t celebrating, of course. Christmas Eve can be brutal for many people. The holidays often signal a time of family stress, and of shortfall. A season of giving is often a season when giving is expected and not receiving reflects a weakness or a failure on the part of the giver.
Dennis Price was at home, with his daughter, enjoying the Christmas holiday with those he loved. Stacey Lawton was out, breaking into cars, searching for something of value. He did not have something he needed on Christmas Eve. It seems logical that he was looking for something to have or to give on Christmas. Could he have been looking for gifts to give in place of the gifts he did not have, or could not afford?
Price’s 18-year-old daughter, Jennifer, heard noises outside their home and alerted her father.
While Jennifer called 911, Dennis Price went outside and found the trio trying to break into his truck. The burglars greeted Price with a shotgun blast to the chest. The 911 tapes recorded Jennifer crying, “Oh my God! They shot my dad!”
The killing seems to have been fast and without a thought. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Lawton knew Price, so this is apparently a crime of the moment. This was an accidental killing in the act of a felony. Price was not armed, most likely expecting to scare aware any petty thieves with his presence and perhaps a shout. The shotgun blast was fired by someone. Who exactly killed Price was never determined conclusively.
Dennis Price died on the way to the hospital.
Lawton and the two accomplices — Karlos Ranard Fields, 21, and a 14-year-old — fled in two stolen pickups, then abandoned them and stole a third pickup. A witness saw the truck speed away and called police.
The accomplices included a small boy of 14 years. Could this have been a relative of Lawton? Could the desire to rob cars on Christmas Eve be connected to the desire to see children happy on Christmas morning? Could Lawton have been breaking into cars to find something to give to this boy for Christmas? The evidence says little on this, but it is a possible motive.
Lawton and his two accomplices were caught after a high-speed chase.
Court records show that the murder weapon was stolen in an earlier burglary. Lawton’s 14-year-old accomplice testified that Lawton was the gunman who killed Price.
Lawton had a prior conviction for delivery of cocaine.
The weapon seems to have been taken by Lawton, or one of his accomplices during an earlier burglary. Having found a shotgun in another break in, the presence of the weapon may have been unintended. It may have been a prize intended for sale later, with the proceeds of that sale going to some other purpose.
There doesn’t seem to be any need for a shotgun when breaking into cars. It was not as if Lawton was going to encounter resistance from someone inside of the cars into which he was breaking. The gun may well have been used unintentionally, in the moment, after having accidentally discovering the weapon in an earlier car break in. this is Texas, after all. Many trucks have shotguns stored within them in Texas.
Lawton didn’t have a history of violence. At least no history of violence was introduced at trial. The weapon was fired by Lawton, according to a 14 year old boy. What makes the testimony of a child convincing in this case? Why wouldn’t Lawton challenge the testimony of the child to raise doubt about who fired the gun? It does not appear that this defense was ever attempted. Perhaps Lawton did not want to challenge the child’s testimony. Perhaps the child’s protection was important to Lawton, and accepting this argument protected the boy even at his own peril.
Lawton was caught in a bad spot, that much s for certain. He was in need of something of value on Christmas Eve, and was breaking into cars when he found a valuable weapon. Before he could sell it he was surprised by Dennis Price, and the shotgun went off, killing a man Lawton never knew and had no reason to kill.
This accident made his situation even worse, as the child who was present could now be an indicted co-conspirator in a murder/robbery.
The child who may have been the recipient of Lawton’s Christmas kindness, was not in a bad spot because of Lawton. In order to save the boy, it may be that Lawton needed to take the rap and die by lethal injection.
In essence, Lawton was in a pickle. He needed something, and in his effort to get it he landed in a deeper mess, a mess from which he could not extract himself without endangering the boy. He was in a real pickle indeed.
Executed November 14, 2000. His final request was simply,
“One jar of dill pickles.”
Your support helps to keep Historydojo bringing you great stories from history.