Man Is Charged in Slaying at Apartment

 Gini Orange worked for the Futures Industry Association.
Gini Orange worked for the Futures Industry Association. (Courtesy Of The Orange Family)
By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 10, 2008

The lives of Gini Orange and Mark Lawlor could not have been more different.

She was the happy, intense Christian, always praying and looking for ways to make others smile. He was the convicted felon who stalked and abducted an ex-girlfriend and was repeatedly sent back to jail for alcohol and drug violations.

But their paths crossed in the Prestwick Apartments in the Falls Church area, where they lived and where Lawlor worked as an assistant property manager. Fairfax County police think Lawlor killed Orange in her apartment last month, possibly by hitting her on the head with a hammer. Lawlor was arraigned yesterday and charged with murder.

"This was a horrific end to a wonderful life that was full of promise," said Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh, who said he would prosecute the case himself.

When Orange, 29, didn't show up for work at the Futures Industry Association, a trade group in Washington, on Sept. 25, co-workers called police. Officers found her lying in her living room that morning, according to a search warrant affidavit. Police said there was no sign of forced entry.

Police investigated the case intensely for two weeks, interviewing Prestwick residents, Orange's co-workers and her friends at McLean Bible Church, where she sang in the choir, volunteered with a children's group and attended Bible study groups. Eventually they focused on Lawlor, 43, searching his apartment late Wednesday for a blunt instrument that could have been used to kill Orange, as well as jewelry missing from her apartment.

Police seized Lawlor's computer, cellphone and 13 keys, but they and Morrogh declined to discuss any evidence that they thought might directly incriminate Lawlor. At his arraignment, Lawlor was ordered held without bond in the Fairfax jail. The Fairfax public defender was appointed to represent him.

Orange's slaying was the second tragedy this year for her mother, Marilyn R. Orange of Troutville, Va., outside of Roanoke. Her husband, Lloyd E. Orange, 74, died in January.

But when Marilyn Orange arrived at McLean Bible Church for her daughter's memorial service last week, she was the one who tried to console her daughter's many friends.

"She was the one supporting us," said Betsy Cantrell of Alexandria, one of Gini Orange's close friends. "She told us that Jesus died by being put on the cross; it was okay for Gini to go through that as well. God suffered for us. It's okay. It humbled me to the core."

Marilyn Orange declined to be interviewed. But her daughter's friends said that Gini Orange had been a Christian since childhood and that her faith was clearly mirrored in her mother.

Gini Orange was raised in the Roanoke area, played saxophone in the marching band at Lord Botetourt High School and was involved in her church youth group. She attended Virginia Tech and graduated in 2001 with a degree in marketing. She then moved to the Washington area and, after a couple of unfulfilling sales jobs, landed at the Futures Industry Association in 2003.

"Gini Orange was a delightful person," said John M. Damgard, the association's president. "Her whole life was her job and her church. She was such a kind, fine person. And her behavior was so innocent, it was almost childlike. Everybody in this organization was just devoted to Gini."

Her friends said she prayed constantly, whether seeking answers or giving thanks for a round of appetizers being delivered to a table. Joanna Eccles of McLean said Orange clowned around when trying to lift her spirits and gave her money when Eccles was leaving for a spiritual mission. She said Orange was known for her love of Diet Coke and high heels.

"She was gorgeous," said another friend from McLean Bible, Heather Coleman, "but she wasn't the girl that walked around like she was gorgeous. She walked around like she loved God. She was humble about everything in her life."

Court records show that Lawlor was arrested in November 1998 for breaking into a Great Falls home and abducting a former girlfriend. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison.

Lawlor was released in 2004 but was sent back to jail twice for short stints for violating his probation, including arrests for drunken driving and admissions that he was using cocaine. His most recent jail stay was in the summer of 2007, court records show.

Management for the Prestwick Apartments declined to comment yesterday on why Lawlor was hired to work there.

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