A Central New York man pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the killing of his toddler daughter in what authorities said was a murder fueled by jealousy over the attention the girl received after surviving cancer.
Ryan Lawrence, 25, was arrested two days after he abducted his little girl, Maddox, leaving a message for his wife saying that he might harm her or himself, police said.
“Ryan, if you're listening, please just bring Maddox home,” Maddox’s mom, Morgan Lawrence, tearfully pleaded after her daughter was taken. “Maddox, I love you honey. Ryan, please, just at least call.”
Morgan Lawrence played no role in her daughter’s death, officials said.
The 21-month-old girl’s remains were found in Onondaga Creek in Syracuse a day after her father was arrested.
Lawrence admitted in court to beating his daughter to death with a wooden baseball bat before burning her body in a fire pit and then tying her remains to a cinder block and dumping them in the water.
The little girl had already faced so much in her short life, having successfully beaten a form of eye cancer, Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick told CBS5.
Wanting people to know that “Maddox was a fighter,” Fitzpatrick said: "She had been fighting a very unusual form of cancer and all indications were that she was successful but the [treatment] was expensive... and it was time consuming.”
Lawrence told to authorities that he was jealous of all the attention Maddox received, “as opposed to the attention he was getting,” Fitzpatrick said.
The young man had grown up in a household that fought against abuse, as his mother dedicated much of her life to working with victims of violent crime and their families.
Mary Lawrence, Ryan Lawrence’s mother, served as director of the Victim's Advocate Program in Onondaga County District Attorney's office for a decade before getting her Master's Degree in social work, her obituary said. She died of kidney cancer in July 2008.
She went on to work with abusive men and their victims, the Syracuse Post-Standard reported.
As part of the guilty plea that was entered in Onondaga County Court Thursday, Lawrence waived his right to an appeal.
The family of Morgan Lawrence agreed to the deal, crying in court as Lawrence entered the guilty plea.
He is due in court on October 7, when he is expected to be sentenced to 25 years to life.