SOUTH BEND – Throughout the week, WSBT is going to be featuring cold cases from around our area. These are cases that have eluded police – some, for decades.
In St. Joseph County, Metro Homicide detectives are struggling to solve a 2009 cold case. Police say they don't know why a father of eight was killed inside his own home, but they are hoping new details about the night he was murdered will trigger someone's memory.
When the team from Metro Homicide met with WSBT to talk about the Lawrence Martin case, they came with high hopes.
"Just one piece of information that would seem so insignificant to somebody could blow this case wide open," said Lieutenant Dave Wells as he sat in a room with the rest of his team.
Wells, St. Joseph County Prosecutor Mike Dvorak, Crime Scene Investigator Sergeant Alex Arendt and Cold Case Investigator Sergeant James Andrews gathered to share details of the Martin case with WSBT. They are a team still very invested in finding out who killed the father of eight.
"The bottom line is we just don't know, and that is why it is cold," said Wells.
That is why they are releasing new details about the night Martin died. They hope to trigger someone's memory. The Martin case may be cold, but it is certainly not closed.
By all accounts, 44-year-old Lawrence Martin was a good man.
"He was very playful, jokey, serious sometimes. He was a good dad, stern but still playful," said LouAnn Martin, Lawrence's sister.
He had a job as a car salesman at a reputable dealership, working six days a week to support his kids. He had a rough past, but according to LouAnn, that was behind him.
"He was a good brother," said LouAnn. "We had this ongoing battle of who could cook the best."
Where and When?
Everything changed the evening of May 28, 2009.
Martin left work as normal that evening. Around 8:30 p.m., he stopped at an ATM at the corner Cleveland and Lilac and withdrew some cash. Surveillance photos from the bank show Martin withdrawing cash. He then drove home, parked his creme/white colored Cadillac in the driveway of his Laurel Road house and was about to sit down on the couch and eat a bowl of soup.
"We believe he was killed shortly after that withdraw," said Wells, "It's quite possible he was targeted because he was seen driving his Cadillac and parked at an ATM. and the motive possibly was robbery."
But Wells stressed that is just a theory.
A neighbor reported she heard her dogs barking around 9:30 that evening. The next morning, Martin's ex-girlfriend found his body. He had been shot more than once.
"It seemed as if he was startled and caught completely off guard because he was sitting on the couch when it happened. (He was) eating," said Wells.
His body was found in the front room of the house, face down on the floor. There was no sign of forced entry, no indication of a struggle and police never found a murder weapon. While police say something was taken from the home, they won't specify what that was. Interestingly, the $100 he got from the ATM, never left his car.
Right now, police are following the theory that Martin was "ATM stalked." There have been cases like that in the past. They believe someone could have seen him at the ATM, followed him home, and robbed him. But that is only a theory. They aren't ruling anything out.
Police say they don't have any suspects, but they will follow up on every lead.
"Information," said Andrews, "that is the only thing that is going to solve this case."
For LouAnn Martin, it doesn't seem as though four years have passed. Each day is another without answers.
"I want to forgive. But I first have to get past the shock," said LouAnn.
If you or anyone you know has information that could help solve this case, call Crimestoppers at 574-288-STOP or visit their website: http://www.michianacrimestoppers.com/
You can also call St. Joseph County Metro Homicide directly at 574-235-5009.