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Violent death of a Middlesboro toddler shakes community, mother arrested for her part in the tragedy

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

From WRIL The Big One -

Erica L. Lawson - BCDC

7-31-23 UPDATE: While no additional arrests have yet been made, Erica Lawson was arraigned Monday morning July 31st in Bell County District Court.


District Judge Robert Yoakum set a $1,000,000.00 cash bond in her case and her next court appearance will be Tuesday morning, August 8, 2023.

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Original story:

On Friday night July 28, 2023, a 17-month-old female child 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. The child had been beaten and raped.


The medical staff attempted to stabilize the girl, placing her on a respirator, but unfortunately, the incident rendered the child brain dead according to a family member. The victim passed away Sunday evening July 30th at Children’s Hospital.


While medical care was being administered over the weekend, 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.


Sunday night the 30th Det. Cowan interviewed the mother of the child, 21-year-old Erica L. Lawson of Middlesboro, and subsequently arrested her in connection with the violent and tragic crime.


Erica Lawson has been booked into the Bell County Detention Center and charged with:

Manslaughter – 2nd degree, Failure to report child abuse – 1st degree, Criminal abuse – 1st degree - child under 12, and Wanton endangerment.


The Department of Child Services also assisted.


Another arrest is expected in this ongoing investigation.

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