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Gary Lawrence

Florida Death Row Inmate

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Gary Lawrence

Gary Lawrence

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Brenda and Gary Lawrence separated soon after they were married. Michael Finken moved in with Brenda and her two daughters, Kimberly and Stephanie Pitts, as well as Rachel Matin, Stephanie’s friend.

On July 28, 1994, Gary, Michael and Brenda drank a beer together. While at Brenda's apartment Gary and Michael got into a fight when Gary found out Michael and Brenda had been sleeping together. After seemingly settling the dispute, Michael went to sleep on the couch.

Soon after Brenda and Gary told Rachel and Kimberly that they were “going to knock off Mike.” and instructed the girls to “stay inside your bedroom no matter what you hear.”

While in their bedroom, Rachel and Kimberly said that they heard a pounding sound. Rachel said that she heard the victim repeatedly yelling, “Stop it, if you stop, I’ll leave.”

Once the pounding noise ceased, the girls were required to help clean up around Finken. At trial, both girls described the mutilation of Finken’s face, who at that time was still alive.

Kimberly said she saw her mother, Brenda, coming out of the kitchen with something that looked like a dagger, then witnessed her mother make a stabbing motion towards the Finken.

Brenda then asked that the girls go enlist the help of Chris Wetherbee. When Chris entered the apartment, he saw the Finken’s crushed skull, indistinguishable face, and a mop handle shoved down his throat. When the mop handle was removed, Chris heard three or four ragged breaths come Finken before he stopped breathing and died.

Gary told Chris that he had beaten Finken with a baseball bat after having already beaten him with a pipe until it bent.

Gary and Brenda wrapped the body in a shower curtain and Gary drove to an isolated area and set the body on fire. When Gary returned to the apartment, he and Brenda danced.

Gary was arrested later that same day while he was driving the Finken’s car. He confessed to the murder stating that he had did it because Brenda and Finken had been sleeping together.

The medical examiner testified at trial that the victim’s death was caused by blunt trauma and possible asphyxia. He also stated that the victim was still alive when the mop handle was forced into his throat. The victim had a very high blood alcohol level, and it was possible that one or more of the blows to his head could have caused a loss of consciousness.

Source: Florida Commission on Capital Cases

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