Public Safety

Central City woman accused of running over and killing cyclist wants evidence kept out of trial

Melinda Lawrence
Melinda Lawrence

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Central City woman, charged with running over and killing a cyclist last year, wants a judge to toss out the statements she made to authorities because they violated her rights and to also exclude the results of two blood tests because she didn’t give her consent.

Melinda Lawrence’s lawyers, during a hearing in Linn County District Court on Friday, also argued the search warrant for one blood test wasn’t filed with the county clerk’s office until this year.

Lawrence, 60, is charged with first-degree murder, homicide by vehicle and leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

She is accused of driving her 2006 Buick Rendezvous over cyclist Jeffrey Alan Scott, 54, also of Central City, on Aug. 30, 2018, in the parking lot of the Dollar General store in Central City, according to a criminal complaint.

Scott suffered a “crushing injury to his chest,” which resulted in his death, the criminal complaint showed.

Linn County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Williams testified Friday that Lawrence was arrested about 11:22 Aug. 30, after he pulled her over when he noticed sparks and debris underneath her vehicle. Her speech was “slurred, eyes bloodshot and watery, and she smelled of alcohol,” he said.

He then noticed what looked like a bicycle frame underneath her vehicle. Williams asked Lawrence what it was. Lawrence said she didn’t know.

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Lawrence admitted to having two or three alcoholic drinks. After she failed a sobriety test, he arrested her and put her in his squad car.

About this time, Williams said he learned Scott had been run over that night in the Dollar General parking lot, only a few blocks from where he stopped Lawrence.

A few minutes into driving Lawrence to the sheriff’s office, he realized she was unconscious. He stopped to check on her and “yelled and shook” her but got no response.

He called emergency responders, and they took her to UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids.

Williams said he asked a doctor to sign an implied consent form, confirming Lawrence was unresponsive and couldn’t give consent so a blood sample could be taken. He said the doctor signed the form at 12:50 a.m. Aug. 31, 2018, and the sample was taken at 1 a.m.

Williams said a supervisor also obtained a search warrant and had him get another blood sample. Lawrence was still unconscious, but he left her a receipt for the consent forms and blood samples.

Dr. Joseph Swan with St. Luke’s testified to Lawrence being nonresponsive, unable to answer questions and not moving. Her eyes hadn’t opened since she had been in the hospital, he said.

Swan said he told the deputy she wasn’t able to consent, and he signed the forms.

On cross-examination by Tyler Johnston, Lawrence’s lawyer, Swan said Lawrence seemed unconscious but he doubted it. She may have been pretending, but he didn’t think she was able to respond. He gave her an ammonia capsule to provoke a physical reaction, and she did open her eyes.

Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden asked when the capsule was given to her.

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Swan said about 15 minutes after the blood samples were taken. Lawrence was unresponsive, but he couldn’t give a medical reason for her condition, he said.

Linn County Sheriff Sgt. Corey Grote said he interviewed Lawrence for about an hour after 4 a.m. She wasn’t under arrest, and he never told her she was being charged but she did ask if she would be “charged with murder.”

Grote told her it was an ongoing investigation. They hadn’t even obtained a search warrant to look at her vehicle at that point.

He confirmed during the hearing he did not read Lawrence her Miranda rights and that she was not in custody.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Beuter said he didn’t realize the search warrant hadn’t been filed in the clerk’s office until April 16 of this year, and he then filed it.

Johnston asked Beuter how a judge would know it if was legitimate. Beuter said it was signed by a judge and dated.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Andrew Chappell said he would file a written ruling on the defense motions as soon as possible.

If convicted, Lawrence faces life in prison without parole. Her trial is set for Sept. 9.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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