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‘The body was starting to melt’: Sickening details released in East Bay ‘neglect’ death

MARTINEZ — When investigators entered the home at 243 Escondido Drive in Martinez late last month, they were immediately hit with the smell of death.
Before long, Martinez police had discovered its source, the body of 77-year-old Lyle Lawrence, a retired postal worker, in a bedroom inside the home. He was covered in bed sores, and next to him were “piles and piles” of dried vomit, flies and lice, dried blood and rotting trash, police wrote in court records.
When the initial investigation reached its end, Lyle Lawrence’s daughter, 50-year-old Laura Lawrence, had been charged with murder and manslaughter. Laura Lawrence’s boyfriend, 49-year-old Edmund Phillip St. John, had been charged with elder abuse. Authorities describe it as a neglect homicide, a rarely-applied legal theory that alleges Lawrence’s inattention to her ailing father was so bad it amounted to murder.
Lawrence and St. John were also charged with child abuse, because their 11-year-old son was found in the home. Lawrences also faces a charge of dissuading a witness from reporting the state of the home.
The investigation started on Feb. 28, around 10:30 a.m., when police were called to the home for a report of a likely deceased man. Laura Lawrence greeted them, and showed them her father’s bedroom. It was obvious to police that Lyle Lawrence had been dead for days — a suspicion later confirmed by the medical examiner — but Laura Lawrence claimed he’d died earlier that day.
“The body was starting to melt into the bedding,” a Martinez detective wrote in court records. “It appeared Lyle hadn’t eaten in weeks.”
When interviewed, Laura Lawrence told detectives two days earlier, she found a rat gnawing on her father’s leg, so she trapped it and removed it from the home. She said she regularly brought him food and water, but hadn’t washed him in more than a year, police said.
Lawrence also claimed she didn’t have the financial means to give her father better care, which she admitted he needed, according to court records. But authorities found evidence Lawrence was accessing her father’s $4,000 per month pension in addition to having a job that paid $30,000 annually, according to court records.
Guns and ammunition were also found in the home.
Check back for updates. 

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