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Posted on Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Police continue to investigate death of John Lawrence more than 3 months later

By Kyle Feldscher

Ypsilanti police continue to investigate the death of John Lawrence as a homicide and are still collecting evidence in the case.

Detective Sgt. Thomas Eberts said detectives are making progress in the investigation. Two people were originally arrested following Lawrence’s death on March 31, but were released without being charged later on that week.

“We’re waiting for information from search warrants served in the case,” Eberts said.

Lawrence, 46, died after he intervened in a lease dispute involving his 19-year-old daughter and a couple she lived with at the Peninsular Place apartments, in the 900 block of Railroad Street.

Raven Lawrence, John Lawrence’s daughter, told she called her father after an argument about the living situation at the apartment escalated.

She lived at the apartment with a 20-year-old woman, a 20-year-old man and the couple’s child. The man was living at the apartment without a lease.

John Lawrence came to the apartment with his handgun on him, but gave it to his daughter and told her to put it in his car. Raven Lawrence said she put the gun in the car and returned to the apartment to find the door locked.

She called police and by the time investigators got into the apartment John Lawrence was dead.

A preliminary autopsy revealed Lawrence died from blunt force trauma to the head, but investigators backed off that statement as the investigation progressed. Detectives told Lawrence was hit in the head with a frying pan at some point during the confrontation.

Eberts said Tuesday Lawrence did not die from blunt force trauma to the head.

"The exertion of the struggle combined with those health issues caused the death," Eberts said.

The two 20-year-olds who lived at the apartment with Raven Lawrence were taken into police custody and put in the Washtenaw County Jail. However, they were released on April 3 without charges as police continued to investigate the case.

John Lawrence’s death was the second incident investigated as a homicide at Peninsular Place in the span of four months. Ypsilanti police continue to investigate the death of Julia Niswender, who was found dead at in her apartment in December.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


Ypsi Eastsider

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

Penn Place is allowed to rent by the room while all other apartment owners are prevented from doing this. The City says renting by the room leads to more crimes and calls for police service and is less desirable housing for the community. Guess they are right, Penn Place seems to bear this out. Why is City is unwilling to do anything about the unsafe conditions at Penn Place and the repeated calls for service from the police department?

Marcy Davy

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:41 a.m.

I have asked to investigate what you're talking about several times without hearing back. i used to be a resident of this neighborhood and saw first hand how the city gave these apartment complexes leniency with regard to housing rules, codes and ordinances designed to protect the safety of citizens. if this was a neighborhood full of long term residents the city would not choose the profiteering preferences of slumlords over citizens again and again. i don't know how bad it has to get up there before this town cares enough to start demanding code enforcement. just because the people up there are transient or poor does not mean they should not be provided with equal protection under the law. it makes me sick.

Honest Abe

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 5:53 a.m.

Very confusing case. Same with the Niswender Case. I'm a fan of YPD, but it seems they just don't have anything regarding these sad incidents. They should just come out and let us all know they are at a roadblock. Perhaps the public can help?! I know Police do not reveal everything because it can jeopardize their investigation, but come on!


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 4:48 p.m.

Not to be insensitive to the loss of this man's life but he came with a gun and we have only this report to tell us that he gave the gun to the daughter to take outside... which is odd... Also the other woman was in HER home. Can one still defend themselves... with a frying pan or other weapon in one's own home? Just asking.


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 7:59 p.m.

I'm guessing this mostly has to do with the fact that the only people alive who witnessed what happened are the people who are suspects, and are probably (wisely) only talking to their legal council right now.

Jack Gladney

Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

I agree. So far, every telling of this story has a sort of literary fast-forward button, leading to numerous possibilities for what when down. But for now it is like: "The Johnson family of Troy were travelling on I-75. Three of the children are expected to be released from the hospital on Monday. The mother has not been charged."


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

What will it take for investigators to determine that murder is the case, nothing more, nothing less.

Jack Gladney

Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 5:09 p.m.

I think what it comes down to is whether Mr. Lawrence was a victim of assault and battery or was the unnamed person(s) acting in self-defense. If he is determined to be a victim of felonious assault it is possible that his attacker could be charged with felony murder. Let us say I were to rob a bank, and Mrs. Smith is present during the robbery and drops dead of heart attack from fright, I could be charged with felony murder in addition to bank robbery. It's been a while since that intro to law course in college, but I think that is how it works, anyway.


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

@Kyle, this was what I was wondering while this case had been lingering this whole time. If there was a struggle, there are a lot more questions that complicate the matter. I'll be curious to hear what the other side of this story is, if it ever comes out.

Kyle Feldscher

Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

hawkhulk - Considering the fact that Mr. Lawrence appears to have died from health-related causes during the struggle and not a simple blunt force trauma injury, there is a much bigger gray area than us non-detectives can see.


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

Doesn't anyone read the whole article ? at first it was said he died from blunt force trauma then they said it wasn't.Eberts said the struggle combined with health issues led to his death.


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

WOWOWOWOW.....they were released without charges and they STILL haven't been charged? My only thought is that Mr. Lawrence maybe had a "pre-existing medical condition," and the DA isn't sure what charges they can successfully get convictions on. Regardless of this, if you assault someone without just cause, and that results in are INDEED criminally responsible for that death. We can argue intent all day but that doesn't change that A crime was just changes WHAT that crime is....but it will STILL be a charge related to the death.


Wed, Jul 31, 2013 : 5:56 p.m.

So Billy can accuse someone of assault but I can't accuse someone of self-defense? Makes a lot of sense.