News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 20, 2014

Indiana Supreme Court reviewing Bloomington man’s sentence

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Supreme Court is considering arguments offered Thursday on the sentencing of a Bloomington man convicted of the August 2011 murder of a Greene County woman.

Randy Knapp, 52, was convicted in October 2012 of killing Stacey J. Lawson, 28, of Solsberry, by bashing her in the head with a rock at the Newark Cemetery in Greene County.

The jury recommended a sentence of life in prison without parole because of the aggravating factor that Knapp was already on probation for two prior class-D felony convictions related to methamphetamine.

Oral arguments in the case were heard Thursday in a direct appeal before Justices Robert D. Rucker, Steven H. David, Mark S. Massa, Loretta H. Rush and Chief Justice Brent E. Dickson. They took the matter under advisement.

Appeals attorney Kimberly Jackson argued Thursday that instructions given to the jury were incorrect when it came to the sentencing enhancement of life without parole. The court-appointed defense attorney also stated that the camera used to take forensic photos of the victim and crime scene was not properly calibrated so that a timeline of the evidence could be established.

Rucker noted that there was some confusion in the jury instructions, but that was corrected and the final instructions read by the judge to the jury were correct.

Massa also noted that there was no “unsavory character” statement made about the defendant to allude to Knapp's prior criminal history related to methamphetamine use. But the jury did learn that Knapp was on probation related to prior criminal cases at the time that the murder occurred and that he was guilty of two prior unrelated felonies, which allowed the sentence enhancement of life without parole to be considered.

The justices also noted that Knapp confessed to Lawson’s murder.

Knapp was arrested less than a week after Lawson’s body was found in a wooded area near the cemetery. The prosecutor alleged that Knapp lured Lawson to the cemetery with the promise of giving her money. He was reportedly upset about the suicide of a young man who had been Lawson’s ex-boyfriend. Knapp reportedly considered the young man like a stepson, because at one time Knapp had been the boyfriend of the young man’s late mother, police said.

The Greene County jury convicted Knapp of murder, which carried a sentence of 45 to 65 years in prison. The jury also found the aggravating factor of being on probation when the murder occurred, allowing for the sentencing enhancement.

No specific timeline was given for when a ruling will be handed down by the court. Anyone interested can follow the supreme court via Twitter for when an opinion is handed down by going to https://twitter.com/incourts.

The archive of the oral arguments presented in the Knapp case can be accessed online at mycourts.in.gov/arguments.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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