Serial "sexual predator" who targeted elderly women sentenced in - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Serial "sexual predator" who targeted elderly women gets 15 years

Willie Lawrence Jr. Willie Lawrence Jr.

He preyed on elderly women and his sexually charged crimes stunned a Montgomery neighborhood. Now, a judge has moved for a Wetumpka man to spend more than a decade in prison.

On Thursday, Circuit Court Judge William Shashy sentenced Willie Lawrence Jr. to 15 years in prison. It was a "light sentence for a sexual predator," District Attorney Daryl Bailey said. His office sought a stiffer sentence. 

One of Lawrence's victims, Margaret Hand, says she can't shake the night in February 2012 when she realized a stranger was in her bed. "I felt a pressure between my legs and I woke up to find this naked man in my bed on top of me," she said. 

Lawrence broke into her home in the Dalraida neighborhood of Montgomery and was touching her. She knew she had to set her fear aside and think fast. She tried to act calm, hoping it would catch the man off guard. 

"As I pulled up the covers, he stood up at the foot of the bed and I realized he was much larger than me. My first thought was, 'What am I going to do?' and I took a really deep breath and I sat up on my knees and keeping really good eye contact, I said, 'Well, this is interesting, I have to think about this.' And it obviously shocked this strange man and I slowly began to get off the bed. And he came around and he was standing right in front of me. But I never lost eye contact and I said, 'Does anyone know you're here?' And he said, 'No.' And I said, 'Well this could be fun for the both of us but I have to go to the bathroom first.' And he said, 'No, you'll call the cops.' And I said, 'No, there's the phone," she told WSFA. 

She quickly made her way to the bathroom and ended up jumping out the window and running to a neighbor's house for help. A week earlier in the same neighborhood, Lawrence was spotted naked pleasuring himself in a woman's yard as she went to check her mail. 

According to prosecutors, Lawrence had been coming into "The Timbers" neighborhood for several years as a peeping tom, looking into windows. Then, he started undressing and masturbating and knocking on windows and doors of homes in the area. 

"He is a sexual predator. This is not the first time that he has done something like this. He had given a statement to the Montgomery Police Department that he targeted elderly females. He would watch them and pleasure himself as he was watching them. And of course as we know, this escalated," said Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey. 

Earlier this month, Lawrence, 37, pleaded guilty in Montgomery County court to burglary, sexual abuse and indecent exposure and was convicted on the charges. 

"That was our goal, to make sure he was convicted. And quite frankly, I hope he never sees the light of day again. He had been convicted once in Birmingham for breaking into an elderly female's residence and he had a history in other places of doing the same thing and of course a history here in Montgomery of doing this type of activity," Bailey said. 

As for Margaret Hand, she hopes her story gives other victims strength to come forward 

"It's not their fault... There are a lot of victims that don't come forward. There are victims who aren't willing to share and talk to other people. I think that the more the public is educated, the better it is for victims and the better chance we have at getting people like Mr. Lawrence off the streets," she said.

Hand says she's glad to see the court procedures come to an end. 

"But my fears will never come to an end. I think I will always, in the back of my head, feel like I'm always going to be vulnerable," she said. "My bedroom windows are boarded up and I put a piece of furniture across the door every night. I'm an educated woman and I know that might not be realistic but I can't sleep unless I do that."

"He may have felt like elderly women were not a threat to him. And elderly people are targeted because people think they're not a threat and this time, I think he targeted the wrong elderly woman," she added. 

The District Attorney said there are several local resources available to victims of abuse, including the Montgomery Police Department, the One Place Family Justice Center and the Sexual Assault Response Team. 

"There are people out there like this and you need to do what you can to protect yourself. You need to be vigilant. The good news is, when something like this happens, we have professionals there to help," Bailey said. "What I also want the community to know is that when a crime like this occurs, these defendants are going to face well trained prosecutors who are going to do what we can to make sure that these people are put behind bars for the rest of their lives." 

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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