The case against two men accused of murdering and robbing a Lily couple in 2015 has been dismissed at the request of prosecutors.
Bradley Justin Lawson, 36, of Corbin, and Christian Roberts, 26, of Manchester, were each indicted in Sept. 2016 on charges of murder, tampering with physical evidence, first-degree robbery and first-degree arson in connection with the March 8, 2015 deaths of 62-year-old Donnie and 58-year-old Sharon Jackson at their home on Slate Ridge Road.
The couple was found dead in their home from gunshot wounds following a fire at their residence.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele said while there was no physical evidence tying Lawson and/or Roberts to the murders, there were statements from several witnesses who had conversations with the defendants shortly after the murders, along with Roberts’ statement to police.
“We had an individual that passed away. Mr. Roberts’ statement was suppressed by the court following a defense motion in June. Two witnesses changed their testimony,” Steele explained when asked what led to the motion to dismiss the case.
“We had his (Lawson’s) name for some time,” said Laurel County Sheriff’s Deputy Gilbert Acciardo, the department’s public affairs officer, following Lawson’s arrest. “By the end of this past week, information developed that tied him to the scene.”
Acciardo said that officers were called to the home after emergency personnel battling the structure fire located the bodies in the remains of the home.
Investigators said previously that the Jacksons died at approximately 8 a.m. on March 8, 2015. The 911 call about the fire came in at 10:06 a.m. when the couple’s grandson returned home and saw flames shooting from the attic area.
Root said the murders appear to have been the result of a robbery gone bad.
Acciardo described it as a home invasion, explaining the murderer came to the door and forced his way inside.
Sharon Jackson was killed in the living room, while her husband was killed in a back bedroom.
Investigators have not recovered a murder weapon. However, Acciardo said all of the Jackson’s weapons have been accounted for.
Steele added that the motion to dismiss is without prejudice, meaning if law enforcement finds new evidence linking Lawson and/or Roberts to the murders, new charges may be filed.
“This isn’t what we wanted to see happen,” Steele said. “But being mindful of our duty as prosecutors, it was the right thing to do.”
Roberts was released from the Laurel County Correctional Facility Friday afternoon.
Lawson, who pleaded guilty in 2016 to his part in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Whitley County, is scheduled to be sentenced on December 5 in U.S. District Court in London.
Lawson’s sentencing in that case is pending the outcome of the Laurel County case noting that it may have affected federal sentencing guidelines.
Lawson faces five to forty years in federal prison and fine of up to $5 million. At his rearraignment hearing in July 2016, Lawson and co-defendant, Christopher L. Jones of Lily, each admitted to traveling to Georgia on multiple occasions between August 2014 and Aug. 7, 2015 to pick up a supply of methamphetamine and return it to Whitley County to distribute.
According to the plea agreement, Lawson and Jones admitted to obtaining 256 grams (9.03 ounces) of a mixture containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine.
Jones was sentenced to four years in prison.