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Lawyers for Erica Lawson file motion to quash "defective indictment" in the death of her child

From WRIL - The Big One -

A motion has been filed in the case against a woman charged with the death of her 17-month-old child in 2023 to dismiss or amend the charges against her.  

On Monday January 29th, Erica Lawson is expected to make an appearance before Circuit Judge Keith Nagle for another pretrial conference on charges of murder – aggravated circumstances – intentional death of a child, failure to report child dependency neglect or abuse – 1st degree, criminal abuse of a child – child 12 or under, and wanton endangerment – 1st degree.

As we previously reported, Friday night July 28, 2023, 17-month-old Elena was taken to Middlesboro ARH Hospital with severe injuries including sexual assault. Due to the extreme and life-threatening nature of the injuries, the child was flown to Children’s Hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee. Despite efforts of the medical staff, Elena passed away Sunday evening July 30th.

Middlesboro Lt./Detective Barry Cowan and Officer Caleb Ayers began a joint investigation into who was responsible for the incident that led to the assault and death of the child.  Detective Cowan interviewed 21-year-old Erica L. Lawson of Middlesboro, subsequently arresting her in connection with the violent and tragic crime.


The defense council for Lawson, Gregory Coulson and Asst. Public Advocate Emily Croucher, filed the motion on Thursday January 25th stating that the merits of the case require that Judge Nagle make a consideration to “dismiss or strike death as an available penalty”.  The attorneys contend that the criteria for the death penalty have not been met and that the prosecutor misapplied the word “intentional” to make the case eligible for the death penalty.

Their motion makes several claims that attempt to blow holes in the Commonwealth Attorney Lisa Fugate’s case against Lawson as well as tarnish the investigatory process conducted by the Middlesboro Police department in the early stages of the information gathering process.

In what the lawyers claim is a “defective indictment” they state that Fugate used the case as a tool in her campaign as a candidate for Circuit Judge adding that she took to social media to announce that she was seeking the death penalty and that “DNA results were forthcoming.” 

Lawson’s attorneys also claim in the motion that DNA evidence from the six samples gathered by Middlesboro Police for testing were available in August of 2023 and indicate “a complete absence of male DNA on or in this child” and that there is “zero evidence that the child was sexually abused by any person, let alone that Erica permitted or solicited it.”

It should be noted that the “report of forensic laboratory examination” exhibit submitted by the defense council also states that the sexual assault evidence collection kit is being held for additional analysis, which is what investigators have been waiting on for several months. There are two labs involved in that process and results are expected early this year.

We contacted Commonwealth Attorney Lisa Fugate for comment, and she told us “The allegations in the motion are very one sided and untrue. It does not set forth the entirety of the case. I fully expect their motion to be denied. The motion makes statements concerning DNA results which are just blatantly false as well.”

While cameras are not permitted to be used, will be in court Monday afternoon to report on the decision from Circuit Judge Keith Nagle.




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