Hearing reveals eyewitnesses identified Lawson as suspect in Young's Grocery robbery
Local attorney B.J. Foley speaks to Kayla Lawson during a court hearing last week. Lawson is accused of being one of five people involved in an an armed robbery at Young's Grocery late last month.
Kayla Lynn Lawson, who is accused of robbing Young's Grocery on Dec. 30, learned some good news and bad news last week during her preliminary hearing.
Police have only one piece of evidence linking her to the crime, which is an eyewitness identification placing her inside a car in the store's parking lot at the time of the robbery, according to courtroom testimony.
The lone eyewitness picked her out of two separate photo line-ups though, including one conducted more than one week after the robbery, according to testimony.
"He said, 'I am definitely sure this is her," Whitley County Sheriff's Chief Deputy K.Y. Fuson testified about the eyewitness' identification.
About 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 30, two men entered Young's Grocery armed with guns and took cash and a .38 caliber Taurus revolver from behind the counter of the grocery store while the owners, John and Ruth Young were working inside, Fuson testified.
The couple, who are elderly, couldn't give a good description of the suspects. One was wearing a mask and was armed with a revolver. The other didn't have a mask on but was wearing a hoodie, and was armed with a rifle or shotgun, police said.
While the two men were inside, Wilkey Murray, who lives near the store, started approaching it. There was a car with three women in the back of a vehicle, which was located in the parking lot, Fuson testified.
One of the women, who the witness later identified as Lawson, yelled at him saying, "The store is closed," Fuson testified.
The next day, Williamsburg police received information about the case and went to talk with Lawson, who told them that she did not know anything about the robbery.
Sheriff's Sgt. Ken Shepherd soon showed a photographic line-up to Murray, who positively identified Lawson as the person in the back of the car who spoke to him, Fuson testified.
Fuson said that when he returned to work three days after the robbery, he started working on the case and went to a residence where Lawson was located just to speak with her about the case.
After he knocked on the door and yelled that he wanted to speak with her, the light in the living room was turned off.
At that point, sheriff's deputies obtained an arrest warrant for Lawson, which took about 45 minutes and then forced entry into the residence where she was located.
Shonda Peace also lived at the residence and was there when police arrived. Brian Kidd was also there and was found in a back bedroom with Lawson, Fuson testified.
When Fuson interviewed Lawson at the sheriff's department, she told him that she didn't know anything about the robbery besides what Williamsburg police had told her.
"After our conversation, she was just adamant that she wasn't there," Fuson said.
Lawson also told deputies during the interview that she was at the hospital when the robbery took place.
Fuson said that because Lawson was so adamant she wasn't involved, he had Murray go through another photographic line-up on Jan. 6. Murray was shown six jail mug shots of dark haired women including Lawson, and picked her out of the line-up again.
"He was adamant it was her," Fuson testified.
Fuson said he also later learned from Peace that Lawson didn't go to the hospital on the night of the robbery until 10 p.m., and Peace told him that she was asleep for about four hours prior to that and couldn't say whether Lawson had left their residence during that time.
On cross-examination by defense attorney B.J. Foley, Fuson said that Murray also told police the woman he spoke to outside the store had a lip ring.
Fuson said he could find no evidence that Lawson had a lip ring or any lip piercing.
So far no one else is charged in connection with the case but the investigation is still ongoing.
"Based on the testimony we have heard today, I think everybody can agree she did not go in the store," Foley argued to the judge. "She did not commit any type of robbery. She was not a perpetrator in any way."
District Judge Fred White ruled that there was sufficient evidence to bind the case over to the Whitley County Grand Jury.
Up until the hearing, Lawson had been held without bond.
At the conclusion of last week's hearing, White rejected a request from Foley to set a $50,000 surety or signature bond with a requirement that she wear an ankle-monitoring device.
Foley had argued that his client was not a violent perpetrator, that she was not a flight risk and that she had no means to flee.
Over the objections of Whitley County Attorney Bob Hammons, who argued for no bond, White did set a $100,000 fully secured bond that would require Lawson to wear an ankle-monitoring device if she is released from custody.
White noted Lawson's four prior convictions as one reason for setting the high bond, including one for driving while under the influence.
Lawson has pled not guilty to the charge. After the hearing, she cried and told two family members, who were in the courtroom, "I love you."
"We are at the very beginning stages in this case. Ms. Lawson fully maintains her innocence. As the case unfolds, I believe the truth will be revealed," Foley said after the hearing.
Anyone with any information about the robbery is asked to contact the Whitley County Sheriff's Department at 549-6006 during regular business hours or Whitley County 911 Dispatch after hours at 549-6017.
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