Jurors have convicted a third man accused of abducting a woman from behind her Uptown home at gunpoint and repeatedly raping her until her “great courage and cleverness” freed her from the captors on the other side of the Twin Cities many hours later.
Deonte D. Lawson, 24, was found guilty last week in Hennepin County District Court of two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping in connection with the woman’s captivity in mid-October 2017. Lawson remains jailed without bail ahead of sentencing Thursday.
Two other defendants charged in the case have already been convicted. Co-defendant Wayne Armstrong, 18, will be sentenced Friday, with sentencing scheduled for later this month for the third co-defendant, 18-year-old Darrius D. Freeman. All are from Minneapolis.
“This was a horrendous ordeal for the young woman and she rightly feared for her life,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said soon after Lawson was charged more than four months after the crimes. “She showed great courage and cleverness in finally escaping.”
Lawson’s criminal history in Minnesota includes convictions for disorderly conduct, second-degree assault, fifth-degree assault and theft.
Slightly less than 20 % of rapes reported to police in Minnesota were cases in which the victim didn’t know the assailant, according to the Star Tribune’s analysis of about 1,500 reports made to law enforcement in 2015 and 2016. But those cases were more likely to result in a conviction than when the victim knew the assailant.
The woman, 26 years old at the time, called 911 within minutes of escaping in northeastern Washington County and said she was kidnapped while getting something out of her car trunk behind her apartment. The trio forced her into the back seat at gunpoint and took her credit cards.
They drove to a wooded area, where she was raped by all three.
After more driving, she convinced Lawson to stop for gas. As Lawson drove into the Big Marine Lake Store about 5 miles southwest of Scandia, the barefoot woman “exited the vehicle while it was moving,” read a search warrant affidavit.
The woman started walking — Armstrong followed her asking for more sex — and fled into the woods. She soon contacted residents in an apartment over the gas station and called 911.
The woman later reviewed recent purchases on her credit cards, finding one at the Walmart in Brooklyn Center for pellet guns and heavy gloves, and another at a SuperAmerica.
Officers retrieved a surveillance image of two of the suspects at the Walmart, then turned to law enforcement agencies for help identifying the man in the image who wore longer hair.
A Hennepin County sheriff’s deputy said that he recognized the tan boots with orange laces on the man. The deputy said he booked that person — Lawson — into jail about a week after the surveillance footage was captured.
Darrius Freeman was arrested in the 4700 block of Beard Avenue S. after someone complained to police about a reckless driver. Officers located the victim’s car, with Freeman at the wheel. Armstrong’s image was captured on surveillance at the Super America and arrested.