The Manhunt Ends and The Family Grieves

By: Meryl Conant
By: Meryl Conant

The manhunt for double murder suspect Michael Lawson ended Wednesday morning with yet more violence.

Around one this morning, officers received a tip call from an acquaintance of the wanted man.

She said Lawson was in her home along Paine Run Road near Harriston, that's about eight miles from the site of the double murder on Sandy Ridge Road.

Tactical units acted immediately on that tip and swept that residence but Lawson wasn't there.

Then, two SWAT teams and two canine units entered the woods near Paine Run Road.

The acquaintance had told police that Lawson said he would kill himself before surrendering.

And that's exactly what the Sheriff's Department said happened once deputies located him in the woods.

"The deputies identified him with thermal imagery, announced themselves as law enforcement, asked him to give up and he stepped into the woods and fired a single gunshot," Sheriff Randy Fisher explained.

Sheriff Fisher believed it was from the same semi-automatic rifle Lawson used to murder his wife's mother, Peggy Crawley, and Grandfather, William Ross.

And he added that the weapon did have a high-powered scope. It was fully loaded, meaning Lawson must have reloaded at some point.

Although Fisher says it was a tragic day all around, he says the operation demonstrated cooperation between many branches of law enforcement.

He says his office received aid from officers from Staunton, Waynesboro, the state police, the park service and even the FBI in a limited capacity.

The sheriff expected autopsies on the victims and maybe Lawson himself to be done Wednesday.

While the police are closing up loose ends, the family is just beginning its grieving process.

Some family members and neighbors returned to the site Wednesday where it all happened.

A family spokesman said they are overwhelmed with grief and hurt. He said Lawson was acting in anger against innocent people who had always tried to help him.

But he says Wednesday morning's events provide some sense of relief.

"There's never a closure to this, never," said the spokesman, Reverend Robert Johnson. "But somehow that they have caught him, that he's not out hurting anyone else that was one of their main concerns. They didn't want him hurting anyone else, which I thought was pretty unselfish."

Johnson says the family also feels some sort of relief that they are no longer in danger.

They are now in the process of planning a memorial service for the two victims.


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