Public Safety

Grieving sister wants to know why drunken Central City driver 'chose' to run over her brother

Melinda Lawrence sentenced to 40 years in prison

Melinda Lawrence of Central City holds her hands to her face during her sentencing in Linn County District Court in Ceda
Melinda Lawrence of Central City holds her hands to her face during her sentencing in Linn County District Court in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Lawrence, 61, of Central City, pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle while driving intoxicated, willful injury and going armed with intent. She was sentenced to 40 years in prison. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s been more than a year since her brother died, but Sharon Bowers said Friday his death still is “heartbreaking.” She can’t believe he’s gone, and she wants to know why Melinda Lawrence ran over him.

“She chose to drive drunk,” Bowers, of Cedar Rapids, said Friday in a victim impact statement during the sentencing of Lawrence, 61, of Central City.

“She chose to kill him,” she said during her statement in Linn County District Court. “Everybody knows drunken driving leads to death.”

Bowers said it was horrible having to tell her nephew that his father’s life had been taken by a drunken driver.

She said she wanted Lawrence to serve the 40-year prison sentence, in accordance with the plea agreement, for intentionally running over her brother, Jeffrey Alan Scott, 54, of Central City, on Aug. 30, 2018.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Andrew Chappell followed the agreement and sentenced Lawrence to 40 years.

Lawrence, originally charged with first-degree murder, previously pleaded to homicide by vehicle while driving intoxicated, willful injury causing serious injury and going armed with intent.

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All three sentences — 25, 10 and five years — will run consecutively for 40 years. Lawrence must serve a minimum of 10 years before being eligible for parole. Her driver’s license also will be revoked for six years.

Chappell, during sentencing, said Lawrence’s crime was a “senseless and intentional act that didn’t have to happen.”

Lawrence, who pleaded guilty just before jury selection began earlier this month, also waived her rights to appeal the conviction.

She declined to speak during the hearing,

Tyler Johnston, her lawyer, said Lawrence didn’t mean to run over Scott. It was “her desire” to run over his property — his bike. But she is responsible.

Scott and Lawrence had a “falling out” because Lawrence thought he had taken property from her, Johnston said.

Authorities said Lawrence drove her 2006 Buick Rendezvous over Scott while he was riding his bicycle in the parking lot of a Dollar General store at 4 Barber St. in Central City.

Linn County sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call about 11 p.m. and found Scott lying in the store parking lot. The 911 caller performed CPR on Scott.

Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said Scott died of multiple blunt force injuries.

During a previous hearing, Linn County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Williams said Lawrence was arrested after he pulled her over and noticed sparks and debris underneath her vehicle. Her speech was “slurred, eyes bloodshot and watery, and she smelled of alcohol,” he said.

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Williams then noticed what looked like a bicycle cart underneath Lawrence’s SUV. He asked what it was. Lawrence said she didn’t know. 

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

Her first blood test taken, when she was unresponsive at the hospital, was 0.168 blood alcohol concentration, Vander Sanden said. That’s about twice the legal limit of 0.08 to drive a vehicle in Iowa. About an hour later, a search warrant was obtained for a second test that showed 0.119.

A search warrant affidavit showed a friend of Scott’s told investigators Lawrence had been stalking Scott and had previously tried to run him off the road with her vehicle.

Vander Sanden said the friend indicated Lawrence believed Scott had stolen her purse. There was never any proof of the theft, and no charges were filed against Scott, he added.

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

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