ROGERSVILLE — A June 5, 2018 trial date has been set for the Church Hill man accused of shooting his wife to death earlier this year in the presence of their 2-year-old son.
Bryan “Steven” Lawson, 34, was arraigned Thursday in Hawkins County Criminal Court on charges of first-degree murder and felony reckless endangerment in connection with the Jan. 27 shooting death of his wife, Beth “Chandra” Lawson, 40, in their apartment at 914 Holliston Mills Road in Church Hill.
Lawson appeared with his attorney, Larry Boyd, before Judge John Dugger in Rogersville.
Church Hill police said the shooting as well as the events leading up to the incident were captured by an in-house video surveillance system.
The video reportedly reveals the couple were involved in a domestic dispute prior to the shooting.
During the argument, Mrs. Lawson walks away from her husband.
The video reportedly reveals that Mr. Lawson walked outside, returned with a .45-caliber handgun and sat in a recliner. According to police, the video shows that while sitting in the recliner, Mr. Lawson concealed the handgun and Mrs. Lawson returned to the room with the child.
Mrs. Lawson then appears to argue with Mr. Lawson and strike him in the head with an open hand. The video then reportedly shows Mr. Lawson firing the weapon from inside his pocket, striking Mrs. Lawson in the stomach. Mrs. Lawson fell to the floor, and Mr. Lawson then reportedly gets out of the recliner and stands over her while pointing the pistol at her.
Their 2-year-old son was standing beside Mrs. Lawson at the time of the shooting.
Assistant Attorney General Akiah Highsmith told the judge Thursday that there is still evidence at the crime lab, and his office is in the very early stages of compiling “discovery” — or all the evidence against Lawson — to be turned over to the defense.
Boyd said he has not seen any evidence, including the autopsy report. He requested a June trial date because he needs time to analyze the evidence, the video and file motions.
“That’s pretty realistic since there’s still stuff at the lab,” Dugger said.
Dugger also scheduled an appearance for Lawson on May 25 in Greene County for announcements as well as pretrial conferences on Dec. 8 and Feb. 2 for a status update on the exhibit book and evidence.
“I want to get an update if there’s evidence at the lab,” Dugger said. “And then we’ll set some dates about when the exhibit book is going to be ready and then you (Boyd) are going to file some objections to the exhibit book, and stipulations to the exhibit book and motions. We’ve got to start laying the groundwork on this case.”
Dugger also spoke to Lawson about the seriousness of the charges.
“First-degree murder in Tennessee is a 60-year sentence,” Dugger said. “The best you can do is serve 85 percent of 60 years, and that means 51 years. That’s where the 51 years comes from.”
Boyd told the Times-News following Lawson’s preliminary hearing in April that the shooting was self-defense and Lawson had been assaulted by his wife and threatened with a baseball bat prior to the incident.
The surveillance video does not have sound, but Lawson reportedly claims that his wife threatened to drown their son in a nearby pond prior to the shooting, Boyd added.
Boyd described Mrs. Lawson as “a very aggressive woman” with previous military training and said she hit her husband approximately 15 times the morning of the shooting.