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Lawrence statements to police can be used in murder trial, judge rules

Tom Magnarelli
Ryan Lawrence's defense attorney, Michael Vavonese, back in March.

An Onondaga County Court judge has ruled that statements made to police by a father accused of murdering his baby daughter can be used at his trial. Ryan Lawrence was charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping of his 21-month-old daughter Maddox in March. While in custody, Lawrence allegedly described to police how he killed his daughter and brought police to the location of her body.

Michael Vavonese, Lawrence’s attorney, said the issue will be Lawrence's mental state.

“Our doctor has determined that he suffered from an extreme emotional disturbance at the time that this incident is alleged to have occurred and that would be our position going forward at a trial,” Vavonese said. “There were certainly many triggers going on in his life, it is our position if this occurred, led him to this situation. For a dutiful and loving father, who was really inseparable from his daughter, if these charges as accurate, to go from that situation to that of a person who ends up in this situation and these charges, something had to snap. I think something had to snap in his mind and that’s what happened here.”

Onondaga County Assistant District Attorney Jeremey Cali said the prosecution in prepared for that defense.

"We’ve had a doctor examine Mr. Lawrence and that’ll be something we will address at trial,” Cali said. "We're happy, the judge ruled that his confession will be admissible at trial. The jury is going to hear that confession and any of the evidence that came from it."

If convicted, Lawrence could face 25 years to life in prison. His attorney wants the charges reduced to manslaughter and then Lawrence would face 12 to 25 years in prison. Lawrence’s trial is scheduled for October 31st.  

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.