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Falls Church man Mark Lawlor convicted of capital murder of Genevieve Orange

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 22, 2011; 11:14 PM

A Fairfax County jury on Tuesday convicted a Falls Church area man of capital murder for bludgeoning and sexually assaulting Genevieve Orange in 2008. Now the jury will decide whether he should be put to death.

Attorneys for Mark E. Lawlor, 45, had conceded that he murdered Orange. They argued that he was so intoxicated by beer and crack cocaine that he didn't have the "willful, deliberate and premeditated" intent to kill Orange, 29, inside her apartment at the Prestwick Apartments in the Seven Corners area.

Prosecutors contended Lawlor knew exactly what he was doing.

A witness for the defense said he bought more than 10 grams of crack or powder cocaine for himself and Lawlor on Sept. 24, 2008. Lawlor eventually became "twisted" and threatened him with a butcher's knife, the man said.

Orange, meanwhile, came home from her job at the Futures Industry Association in Washington, popped in a DVD of the TV show "Heroes" and lay down on the couch of her studio apartment. That's where she was when Lawlor, a leasing agent for the building, broke in with a key and began beating her - first with a frying pan, then with a hammer, according to Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh.

"She wakes up to her worst nightmare," Morrogh said in his closing argument. "That man, over her, beating her so he could have sex with her."

Evidence showed that Orange incurred 30 blows, apparently with a hammer, to her skull and 17 more wounds on her arms as she tried to fend off Lawlor, Morrogh said.

"He had at least 47 chances to change his mind," Morrogh said, arguing that Lawlor was not incoherent and had the premeditation necessary for capital murder.

Lawlor's lawyers conceded in their opening statement last week that he had committed the murder but said it qualified only as second-degree murder. In his closing argument, defense attorney Thomas B. Walsh amended that concession to first-degree murder.

Still, he said that Lawlor "had so much crack in him he was unable to form the specific intent to kill Ms. Orange."

Lawlor did not testify in the trial, which featured five days of evidence after more than three weeks of jury selection. As both sides accused him of slaughtering an innocent woman in her own apartment during closing arguments, Lawlor largely focused his gaze on the table in front of him.

The jury heard closing arguments Thursday, took four previously scheduled days off and then deliberated for seven and a half hours before reaching its verdict. The sentencing phase of the case, in which Lawlor's defense team will again argue that he does not deserve a death sentence, will begin Wednesday.

Lawlor was living in transitional housing at the Prestwick, now called the Jefferson Apartments, after serving five years in prison for abducting an ex-girlfriend in Great Falls. Twice after his release, he violated his probation and was re-incarcerated, records show.

Lawlor suffered from mental health, drug and alcohol problems and had been under the supervision of the Fairfax Alcohol and Drug Services office, though the office said he was not under its supervision at the time of the slaying.

Orange was a native of the Roanoke area, a 2001 graduate of Virginia Tech and a devout Christian. She was a popular member of McLean Bible Church, where she sang in the choir, volunteered with a children's group and attended Bible study groups.

Some of her friends from the church sat through the entire trial, which featured grisly discussions of the crime scene and bloody photos that weren't shown to the audience.

On the afternoon of Sept. 24, 2008, Lawlor went to Arlington County's Green Valley neighborhood in search of crack and met Mike Johnson, Johnson testified. No crack was available, so Johnson offered to help him buy some in the District, he said. The two proceeded on an 11-hour bender of buying and smoking, consuming a case of beer along the way, according to Johnson.

During a third round of crack-smoking, Johnson testified, Lawlor became "real crazy." At some point, the two left the apartment, but Lawlor doubled back and wouldn't let Johnson in. Lawlor brandished a butcher's knife, the two fought in the hallway, police were called, and Johnson left the Prestwick.

At some point in the following hours, Orange was killed. Semen found on her thigh, stomach and pubic hairs matched Lawlor's DNA. Morrogh said Lawlor raped her.

Morrogh said that Lawlor had obtained Orange's apartment key from the office; brought a hammer to her apartment; killed her and then tried to clean up some of the evidence; exited through a back door, on which Orange's blood was found; returned the key to the office; and disposed of his bloody clothes and the hammer.

"This crime, far more than most," Morrogh said, "was very well planned out."

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