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Jury recommends life term for teen

Published Oct. 9, 2005

A teenager convicted of killing his friend's grandmother should spend the rest of his life in prison, a Pinellas jury recommended Friday.

Although it took the jury only 30 minutes to convict 18-year-old Ronnie Lawrence of Lake County, it took them 2{ hours to decide that he should be spared the electric chair.

Lawrence is the first of three young men to be tried in the murder of Ingeborg Carlson, who was in her early 80s when she was killed in April 1992.

Mrs. Carlson's grandson, Jason Johnson, Lawrence and another friend, John Forrest, drove from Orlando to Mrs. Carlson's home in Largo to rob her of what turned out to be $142, police said.

Lawrence acknowledged participating in the burglary but blamed the killing on Johnson, who is scheduled for trial in September.

According to Lawrence, Johnson punched his grandmother and stabbed her in the throat as she lay in bed.

Prosecutor Nick Mooney said all three are guilty of the murder because they all participated.

After the murder, Johnson, Lawrence and Forrest hid in California and Texas as police issued warrants for their arrest. They were described by authorities in Lake County as "skinheads" and troublemakers.

Lawrence's parents described him as a "good boy" who never caused them trouble. They also said they had a good relationship with him.

A psychologist testified that Lawrence used a lot of marijuana and LSD and may have been influenced by drugs the night of the murder.

Circuit Judge Craig C. Villanti is scheduled to sentence Lawrence on July 6.