By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 23, 2011; 7:41 PM
The first phase of Mark E. Lawlor's capital murder trial focused on the brutal crime itself, and a Fairfax County jury quickly convicted him.
Now, with Lawlor's life in the balance, jurors began hearing Wednesday about the two radically different lives that intersected in a Falls Church area apartment on the night of the murder in September 2008: about the charmed childhood and wide-eyed innocence of Genevieve Orange and the horrific upbringing and previous crimes of the drug- and alcohol-addicted Lawlor.
Orange's mother, Marilyn Orange, had several jurors in tears as she recalled her daughter's upbringing in the Roanoke area, accompanying her father to the golf course or pool hall, being spoiled by her grandparents. After graduating from Virginia Tech, Genevieve "Gini" Orange moved to Northern Virginia, got a good job, made lasting friends at church and found a place to live at the Prestwick Apartments in the Seven Corners area.
"She was claiming her own life, her own career, her own place in the world," said her sister, Brenda Orange Luper, who helped Gini Orange move in to the Prestwick in 2003.
It was at the Prestwick, where Lawlor worked as a leasing agent after his release from prison, that the 29-year-old Orange was attacked as she lay on her couch, sleeping. The medical examiner said Orange suffered 30 blows to the head, apparently from a claw hammer, and prosecutors said Lawlor raped Orange as she lay dying.
DNA evidence from semen linked Lawlor to the crime, and Lawlor's lawyers conceded to the jury that he had killed Orange. The jury had only to decide whether Lawlor was guilty of first-degree murder, with a maximum penalty of life in prison, or capital murder, with the possibility of a death sentence. On Tuesday, the jurors chose capital murder, and now they must decide whether Lawlor should be executed.
So Lawlor's defense team launched another effort to keep him from the death chamber, beginning with a summary of his traumatic life by Meghan Shapiro of the state's capital public defender office. Lawlor, 45, was born and raised in New Jersey, where his mother repeatedly beat and abused him, and his father regularly molested and raped Lawlor's sister, Shapiro said.
The family was isolated from relatives, Shapiro said, and when Lawlor made a friend at summer camp, at age 13, he was raped by the friend. A year later, a neighbor began molesting him. At 16, when he tried to intervene as his father attacked his sister again, Shapiro said, Lawlor's father marched him out of the house with a loaded shotgun and ordered him not to return.
By this time, Lawlor was drinking heavily and using drugs to ease the emotional pain, Shapiro said. He was taken in by a local restaurant owner, who fed and sheltered him and also molested him, Shapiro said.
A probation officer in New Jersey paid for a bus ticket to ship Lawlor away from his misery. But in Virginia, at 18, he stole a car, got drunk with a friend and crashed the car, killing the friend, Shapiro said. Lawlor went to prison for the first time, and Shapiro said he was sober and cooperative there.
"Society will be protected by putting this damaged man away in a place where he can't be a threat to anyone," Shapiro said. "It's not your job to balance Gini's life versus Mark's."
After that jaw-dropping life story, the jury heard from a Great Falls woman who dated and broke up with Lawlor in 1998. Under questioning by prosecutors, she said Lawlor stalked her and slid under her garage door as she pulled in one night.
The woman drove back out of the garage with Lawlor clinging to the hood. She said he kicked the windshield repeatedly until he made a hole through it, then reached in and grabbed her keys from the ignition.
She said Lawlor yanked her out of the car, threw her into his car and drove her around Great Falls until she faked an asthma attack and he released her. He later was arrested and served five years in prison for abduction.