By Kirk Starratt
KENTVILLE - A former Windsor man was sentenced to life in prison here on Tuesday after pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree murder, one involving Charles Maddison of Portapique, Colchester Co., dating back more than 11 years.
In an agreed statement of facts, it was revealed that John Michael Lawrence was hitchhiking on Highway 102 near the Brookfield exit ramp on Sept. 8, 2000 when Maddison, who was on his way to several medical appointments in Halifax, stopped to offer him a drive.
Lawrence quickly produced a handgun, forced Maddison, 55, to drive to a secluded spot in Hants County and shot him twice. Maddison was killed instantly.
Turning to face the family members of Maddison yesterday, Lawrence said, "If I could live my life over, what happened would not have happened."
Lawrence, 37, also pled guilty to the first-degree murders of Barry Kirk Mersereau and Nancy Paula Christensen in Centre Burlington on Sept. 9, 2000.
Lawrence told the court he is sorry for the pain he's caused the families and for what he had done.
Justice Gerald Moir handed Lawrence a life sentence on each of the three first-degree murder charges, with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. The court will impose a lifetime firearm prohibition against Lawrence and will grant a primary DNA order. The sentence came as a joint recommendation from Crown attorney Peter Craig and Defence lawyer Brian Bailey.
Craig read aloud a victim impact statement written by Maddison's 89-year-old mother Etta at the request of the family. Several members of Maddison's family were present in court. She wrote Charles was her oldest child and had planned to travel to Ontario the week after he went missing.
Etta said she has "been crying on the inside all these years."
Lawrence had written a letter of apology to the Maddison family in December 2010, which was delivered through police. Maddison's mother wrote in her victim impact statement she "felt horrible" when she received it.
RCMP conducted a two-day search for Maddison's remains last May in a wooded area off of Panuke Road in Windsor but came up empty handed.
Moir said he was pleased Lawrence had taken responsibility for his actions and hopes he is successful in finding redemption. Lawrence has battled numerous health problems, including cancer, which is currently in remission.
Moir said he had no choice under the law than to hand Lawrence a life sentence but would do the same if he did have a choice.
Leslie Douglas Greenwood, 41, East Mountain, formerly of Bramber, and Curtis Blair Lynds, 35, formerly of North River, are also charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Mersereau and Christensen. Lynds is charged with being an accessory after the fact in the murder of Maddison.