Public Safety

Central City woman charged with killing cyclist takes plea deal

Faces up to 40 years in prison

Melinda Lawrence
Melinda Lawrence

CEDAR RAPIDS — The trial for a Central City woman charged with intentionally running over and killing a cyclist in 2018 was cancelled after a plea agreement was accepted just before jury selection started Monday.

Melinda Kay Lawrence, 61, now faces 40 years in prison with the possibility of parole, instead of the life sentence without parole if she had been convicted for first-degree murder.

Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said Lawrence pleaded to homicide by vehicle while driving intoxicated for 25 years, willful injury for 10 year and going armed with intent for five years. The plea agreement states all three sentences will be run consecutively, and she must serve a mandatory five years on the homicide and willful injury sentences before being eligible for parole.

Vander Sanden said she also waives her appeal rights as part of the plea agreement and must pay the $150,000 to the estate or heir of the victim, Jeffrey Alan Scott, 54, of Central City. Lawrence’s driver’s license will also be revoked for six years.      

“I believe the plea agreement that results in a 40 year prison term achieves justice, and the most important thing is that the family approved the resolution,” Vander Sanden said.  

Authorities said Lawrence drove her 2006 Buick Rendezvous over Scott on his bicycle on Aug. 30, 2018 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, who was unresponsive lying in the store parking lot. The 911 caller performed CPR on Scott but he was ultimately died.

Vander Sanden said Scott died of multiple blunt force injuries from being crushed by the SUV. She hit Scott who was near a fenced in area at the back of the parking lot.

During a previous hearing, Linn County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Williams said Lawrence was arrested 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.

Williams, who didn’t know about the report involving Scott, then noticed what looked like a bicycle frame underneath Lawrence’s Buick. He asked what it was but Lawrence said she didn’t know. 

About that 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.

Vander Sanden said there was no doubt she was intoxicated. The first blood test taken, when she was unresponsive at the hospital, was .168 blood alcohol concentration. Then about an hour or so later, a search warrant was obtained for a second test because she couldn’t comply and it showed .119. The legal driving limit is .08.      

Authorities said witnesses reported seeing a light-colored SUV leaving the scene with obvious front-end damage dragging an object lodged underneath the vehicle that was emitting sparks as it scraped against the road.

A search warrant affidavit showed a friend of the 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.

Sentencing hasn’t been set at this time.

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

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