Couple arrested in neglect-related death of woman’s father

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Two people have been arrested in connection with the death of a 77-year-old Martinez man, which Martinez Police said appears to be a case of elderly neglect.

The two are identified as Edmund Phillip St. John, 49, and Laura Ann Lawrence, 50.

In a statement released Tuesday through Capt. Aaron Roth, the department said officers and medical personnel responded about 10:20 a.m. Feb. 28 to the 200 block of Escondido Drive for a reported medical emergency.

They were told a man at the home was not breathing.

Those responding found a man in a bedroom, and they determined he already was dead. Officers began a preliminary investigation into the cause of his death, which appears to be related to neglect.

The deceased has been identified as Lyle Lawrence, Laura’s father. An 11-year-old child was also living in the home.

The pair, who were living with the man at the time of his death, were both arrested and booked into Contra Costa County jail on suspicion of manslaughter, elder abuse and child cruelty.

MPD have continued the investigation and have presented a case to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office. In addition to murder, St. John and Lawrence have also been charged with involuntary manslaughter, elder abuse or neglect resulting in death and child abuse – all of which are felonies. They also face one misdemeanor charge for attempting to dissuade a witness from filing a police report.

Speaking Wednesday during the Martinez City Council meeting, Martinez Police Chief Manjit Sappal said the case appears to be an isolated incident, one that is unusual in this city.

He said the neglect appeared to have gone on for some time, and said the conditions found inside of the home was one of the worst officers had encountered. “Some people don’t treat the elderly or the young very well,” he said.

Anyone with information connected to the man’s death is being asked to contact Detective Sgt. Shawn Moore of Martinez Police Department, 925-372-3450.

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