Friday, January 20, 2012

Institute, WV: Gruesome Murder-Suicide In Kanawha Co.

Investigators with the Kanawha County Sheriff's Dept. say an Institute man killed his girlfriend and dismembered her body before taking his own life.

Chief Deputy John Rutherford released more information at a late Friday morning news conference in Charleston concerning the deaths of Nathaniel Lawton, 54, and Carol Ann Rhim, 53.

Rutherford says it's believed Lawton, a U.S. Postal Service worker, killed Rhim sometime Tuesday. Deputies were alerted by an informant Thursday afternoon that Lawton had purchased a hacksaw, hacksaw blade and tarp from the Advance Auto Parts Store near Institute earlier in the week. They were able to confirm the purchased and then went to Lawton's apartment on Barron Drive in Institute late Thursday afternoon.

Rutherford says they ordered Lawton to open the door and then heard a muffled gunshot. Deputies entered and found Lawton had shot himself in the head. He died before paramedics arrived.

The chief deputy says investigators executed a search warrant on Lawton's vehicle and found Rhim's head and hands in the trunk. Those have been sent to the state Medical Examiner's Office. Rutherford says the informant and eight deputies are still looking for the rest of Rhim's body.

Rutherford says Lawton's 87-year-old mother lived in the Institute apartment and was there when her son committed the murder and took his own life. Rutherford says Lawton scribbled down some instructions on how his mother was to be cared for before committing suicide. Police say it's unlikely the elderly woman heard or saw anything. Her medical condition prevents her from easily communicating.

Rutherford says the apartment had been thoroughly cleaned after the murder but high tech evidence identifying equipment from the sheriff's office was able to detect a crime scene. He says the dismemberment likely happened in the bathroom near the bathtub.

Lawton had no prior criminal history according to Rutherford. He says Lawton and Rhim had been together for about two years and indications are there had been some domestic problems in recent months. Rhim shared the same address but investigators don't believe she was living at the Institute apartment full-time.

The chief deputy says he's seen a lot of domestic violence cases that have resulted in death during his 35-years on the job, but this murder-suicide is one of the worst ever.

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