Lawlor gets death sentence in 2008 Fairfax slaying

By Tom Jackman
Thursday, March 17, 2011; 10:48 AM

A Fairfax County jury decided Wednesday that a man who bludgeoned a woman to death with a hammer, and then raped her as she lay dying, should be executed.

The photos of the crime scene inside the Falls Church area apartment of Genevieve "Gini" Orange, 29, were too gruesome to be shown to the courtroom audience during the capital murder trial of Mark E. Lawlor.

But prosecutors said Lawlor, 45, a leasing agent in Orange's building, used a key to enter her apartment as she dozed on a couch one night in September 2008. He bashed her in the head 30 times with a hammer, and 17 more times on her arms and body, an autopsy showed, then sexually assaulted her and left behind DNA that implicated him.

Lawlor did not testify or speak throughout the eight-week trial, and he did not visibly respond when the jury chose the death penalty.

Orange's mother, Marilyn Orange of Roanoke, sat through three weeks of jury selection and then about five weeks of trial and deliberations. She attended along with some of her daughter's close friends from McLean Bible Church, where Gini Orange sang in the choir and volunteered with children's groups. Marilyn Orange and her daughter's friends wept and hugged each other as the verdict was read.

"That was for Gini," Marilyn Orange said afterward. "That's why they were here," she said, gesturing to her daughter's close friends Betsy Cantrell and Maria Jacoby, who also sat through the entire trial. "That's why I was here."

To impose a death sentence in Virginia, a jury must find either that the defendant is a future danger to society or that the crime was so vile and inhuman that it warranted the death penalty. In Lawlor's case, the jury found both.

"A mother never wants to see anyone die," Marilyn Orange said. "But just like the jury, I think he would do it again."

The jurors were escorted to their cars by sheriff's deputies and could not be interviewed. Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jonathan C. Thacher did not release the jury list, a public record, so the jurors could not be reached Wednesday night.

Lawlor is a New Jersey native whose attorneys conceded at the outset that he was guilty of murder. But they argued that he wasn't guilty of capital murder because he was drunk and high on crack after a daylong binge Sept. 24, 2008. The jury rejected that argument, and the case moved to the penalty phase, with two choices: life in prison without parole, or death.

The defense told the jury that Lawlor's upbringing was so horrible that he was compelled to become an alcoholic and drug abuser as a teen and that a life of crime followed. Witnesses testified that Lawlor's father was a pedophile who repeatedly molested Lawlor's sister and that his mother physically and verbally abused him.

Given a bus ticket by a sympathetic New Jersey probation officer, Lawlor moved to southern Virginia. But at 18, he drunkenly stole a truck, rolled it over and killed a friend. He went to prison for the first time.

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