A veteran of the Iraq War who brags on his Web site that he can "kill without mercy or reason" has been arrested and charged with the murder of a mentally disabled 19-year-old Colorado girl he befriended on MySpace.
Spc. Robert Hull Marko was arrested Monday, on his 21st birthday, and charged with first-degree murder and sexual assault in the death of Judilianna "Judi" Lawrence. He's being held without bond at the El Paso Sheriff's Office Criminal Justice Center.
El Paso Sheriff's Office Sgt. Robert Jaworski said Marko, who returned from Iraq in February, led police Monday to what authorities are nearly certain was Lawrence's body. The body was found in a wooded area nearly three miles off the paved portion of Old Stage Road, which later turns into a dirt road.
The sergeant was one of more than two dozen members of a search and rescue team that tacked rough terrain Monday in a rural area of the front range of the Rocky Mountains on horseback and ATVs.
Jaworski declined to comment on the condition or exact location of the body, but said an autopsy scheduled for later today would formally confirm its identity and a cause of death. Jaworski said the victim apparently died Friday, the day Lawrence disappeared from her Colorado Springs home.
A Secret Friendship
Lawrence's family could not be immediately reached for comment today. On Monday, her mother and sister described her as a "sweetheart" who loved cartoons and hoped to be a veterinarian.
Her older sister, Evia Lawrence, said she had warned Lawrence, the middle of three sisters, not to meet people over the Internet, but said Monday that her sister could be "hot-headed."
The missing teen, who was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in grade school, was supposed to board a bus for school where she attends special education classes. She and her classmates were heading on a bowling trip, but Lawrence didn't show up.
Instead, her family and police said, she met up with Marko whom she had struck up a friendship with over MySpace, unbeknownst to her mother or sisters.
It was Marko's MySpace page, full of rantings about death and pictures of him in Iraq, that led police to him.
His MySpace page, which prominently features a fire-spewing dragon and lists his mood as "creative," shows Marko last signed on Oct. 9, the day before Lawrence went missing.
An entry on the site under the section "About me" boasts, "I'm pure blooded Black Raptor born as human and one day will join the ranks of my fellow people, until till them (sic) i will keep fighting against humans and will do so till the day i die."
Marko's page then goes on to say "i'm becoming (sic) a cold hearted killer and can kill without mercy or reason."
And under a section marked "Who I'd like to meet," Marko's page says "One day i would like to meet death."
A Decorated Soldier
Marko, a Michigan native, was a mortar man with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, stationed out of nearby Fort Carson. According to information released from the base, Marko was deployed to Baghdad in January 2007 and returned in February of this year. He enlisted in June 2006.
He had received several commendations, including a Combat Infantryman's Badge, an Expert Infantryman's Badge, an Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Iraq Campaign Medal.
His unit is not currently scheduled to re-deploy in the near future.
Pictures on his MySpace page show him on patrols around Iraq, showing off his AK-47 and holding a puppy, among others.
Fort Carson spokeswoman Karen Linne said the military does not have jurisdiction over this case, but is assisting the El Paso Sheriff's Department.
"Of course we'll support them in any capacity they need," she said. "We maintain that he is innocent until proven guilty."
Lawrence's mother, Aekyong Lawrence, said Monday that her daughter's ADHD caused her to have trouble focusing on several things at once, but that if someone took the time to explain things slowly she was fine.
"If you tell her 10 things all at once she doesn't know it," Aekyong Lawrence said. "But if you do it step by step she does it really good."
The Day She Disappeared
Lawrence was just getting up Friday morning and still in her pajamas when her mother left for work, Aekyong Lawrence said.
Aekyong Lawrence said she said goodbye to the teenager and reminded her to take the family's dog outside, to which Lawrence replied, "OK Mommy" in typically exasperated teenage fashion.
Aekyong Lawrence said the teenager tried to wake up her older sister, Evia, before she was supposed to leave for school, but Evia fell back asleep. When Evia tried calling Lawrence on her cell phone at around 11:30 a.m. Friday, there was no answer.
Subsequent calls to her school revealed that Lawrence had never made it there. Her school class had left without her, assuming she was not joining it on a bowling trip.
Desperate to figure out what had happened to her sister, Evia Lawrence broke into her sister's MySpace account and discovered that her sister had been using the social networking site to communicate with Marko
Evia Lawrence said she'd warned her sister about using MySpace, telling her to be careful and "don't go meeting people over the Internet."
But judging by her sister's online conversations with Marko, Evia Lawrence said, Friday was not the first time they had met in person.
"She'd been talking to him for a long time," Evia Lawrence said, noting that neither she nor anyone else knew of their friendship and didn't know who he is. "I think it started right after she first got her MySpace page -- about February."