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Fairfax man's attorneys acknowledge that he killed woman

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 9, 2011; 8:20 PM

Attorneys for a Fairfax County man, who faces the death penalty in the 2008 rape and slaying of a woman inside her apartment, said in their opening statement Wednesday that he killed the woman but that he was so intoxicated his actions didn't qualify as capital murder.

The move by the attorneys for Mark E. Lawlor essentially converted his trial into a one-issue referendum for the jury: Should Lawlor be executed for repeatedly smashing Genevieve Orange in the head with a frying pan and a hammer and then trying to rape her as she lay dead or dying on the floor of her Falls Church area apartment?

Orange, 29, worked as an event planner for the Futures Industry Association in the District and was a popular member of McLean Bible Church. Her mother, Marilyn Orange, spoke with her by phone every morning, Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh said in his opening statement. When "Gini" didn't answer on Sept. 25, 2008, her mother grew worried.

Then Orange didn't appear at work. Colleagues couldn't reach her and called police. Officer Brendan Hooke testified that when he was sent to check on Orange, he found the door to her apartment unlocked. She was lying on the floor, her head covered in blood, her shirt pulled up to her neck and her body naked from the waist down.

Detective John S. Tuller testified that he spotted glistening substances on Orange's thigh and abdomen, as well as fluid on her breasts. Morrogh said the fluids on her thigh and abdomen were semen, and DNA testing showed it was Lawlor's.

Lawlor, 45, was the leasing agent for the Prestwick Apartments, now called the Jefferson Apartments, at 6166 Leesburg Pike in the Seven Corners area. He lived on the ground floor, and Orange lived on the first floor.

He was living at the Prestwick while transitioning back to public life after five years in prison for abducting his ex-girlfriend in Great Falls and having experienced extensive mental-health, drug and alcohol problems, court records show.

Lawlor was initially questioned, along with most of the building's residents, and denied any involvement, Morrogh said. After the DNA match was made, he was arrested Oct. 8, 2008, and has been in the Fairfax jail.

Orange's autopsy showed she was struck 30 times with an instrument with a circular end, and Morrogh said the medical examiner found the wounds were consistent with the blunt end of a claw hammer. Tuller testified that he also found a frying pan with blood on it that had been severely bent. Blood had soaked into one end of Orange's couch and then into pillows on the couch, and Tuller said some had parallel swipe marks on them, implying that someone had tried to clean up the blood.

Police think Orange had fallen asleep on her couch after watching a rented DVD of the TV series "Heroes," whose menu screen was still playing when officers arrived the next morning. Investigators think that Lawlor used a key from the leasing office to let himself into Orange's apartment, because there were no signs of forced entry. No hammer was found.

Faced with the DNA evidence, Lawlor's history and his proximity to the crime scene, the defense team decided to concede his guilt.

"There will be a sentencing phase with regard to this case," defense attorney Mark J. Petrovich told the jury in his opening statement. "Mr. Lawlor was in Ms. Orange's apartment that evening that the commonwealth described. Mr. Lawlor was there. And it was Mr. Lawlor who took Ms. Orange's life."

But Petrovich said Lawlor had been on a 12-hour cocaine and beer binge with a man named Mike Johnson. He said that starting on the afternoon of Sept. 24, Lawlor and Johnson bought a case of beer and seven grams of crack cocaine and that Lawlor had smoked most of it and had drunk most of the beer.

At one point in the evening, Petrovich said, Lawlor and Johnson got into a fight and police were called. "These people are crazy," a neighbor told the 911 operator, Petrovich said.

Capital murder in Virginia requires a "willful, deliberate and premeditated" killing. "Intoxication can be so intense," Petrovich said, "that it eliminates that state of mind that's required for capital murder."

He concluded: "Mr. Lawlor murdered Genevieve Orange. . . . We'll ask you to find him guilty of second-degree murder."

Marilyn Orange, who sat patiently through more than three weeks of jury selection in the case, declined to comment on the admission.

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