Man gets life for choking, burning girlfriend

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by By JENNIFER EMILY / The Dallas Morning News

wfaa.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:45 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 4:19 PM

Douglas Edwards admitted that a jealous rage drove him to kill his ex-girlfriend last year by choking her and then setting her body on fire.

And during the punishment phase of his trial this week, he spoke a great deal about what he lost by killing LaKendra Lawrence, whom he started dating when both were in high school.

"I feel hurt, heartbroken. I feel like I have nothing," Edwards told jurors. "I feel like I hurt myself more than anybody. LaKendra was the love of my life."

But when Dallas County Prosecutor Leah Thomson pointed out during cross-examination that Edwards never said he was sorry during his testimony, the 21-year-old man simply shook his head.

On Wednesday morning, the Dallas County jury deliberated about 45 minutes before giving Edwards a life prison sentence. He had already pleaded guilty to the crime and asked the jury to decide his punishment.

Edwards killed Lawrence, 20, in January 2008 after she started dating someone else. Evidence shows Edwards went to her southeast Oak Cliff apartment, where he pinned her on the bed and choked her so severely that he believed she was dead.

He drove around before dumping her body in Hutchins, south of Dallas, along a muddy, desolate road near Interstates 20 and 45. There, he set her body on fire with diesel fuel and then wrapped it in a king-sized sheet from her bed.

Evidence presented during the trial showed that although Lawrence was close to death from being choked, she was still breathing when Edwards set her aflame.

Nearly a week passed before he confessed and led police to her body.

Lawrence, a twin, was one of 14 children. She worked as a packer at Neiman Marcus and was nicknamed "Nett" by her family because of her love for The Carol Burnett Show.

Lawrence and her siblings lost their mother to cancer in 1991.

During closing arguments Wednesday, Thomson and co-prosecutor Elaine Evans asked jurors to give Edwards a life sentence. Evans stood in front of Edwards and yelled: "How did it feel with your hands around her neck?"

She then told jurors, "This is about control. This man couldn't control her anymore, so she was going to be gone."

Evans held up pictures of Lawrence as she was in life, at a sibling's wedding, and then as she was found by police.

"If he couldn't have her, guess no one could," Evans said. "But did he have to destroy her?"

Defense attorney Frank Douglas asked jurors to consider that Edwards didn't plan to murder or lie in wait and that he cooperated with police eventually.

"He was twisted and turned and severely conflicted and lashed out in the wrong way," Douglas said.

Lawrence's sister, Talkara Lawrence, 27, said her family - which applauded after State District Judge Mike Snipes announced the sentence - believes Edwards "got what he deserved."

"We got closure. But it's still going to be hard. We miss her," Talkara Lawrence said. "Losing her was like losing our mom all over again."

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