Accused Athens serial rapist pleads guilty to charges

ATHENS, OH (WCMH) — Shawn J. Lawson Jr., 26, plead guilty to 12 counts against him in court Tuesday afternoon.

Lawson was charged with rape, attempted rape, felonious assault, kidnapping, aggravated burglary and a previous probation violation.

Lawson was sentenced to 41 years in prison. 32 years of that sentence are mandatory. He will be required to register as a tier 3 sexual offender for the rest of his life, after he is released. Athens County prosecutor Keller Blackburn said it’s the single longest sentence ever given, besides a life term, in the history of the court.

“He’ll be 68 years old at least when he gets out, if he gets out and he deserved a life sentence,” said Blackburn. “It’s kind of sad that the maximum penalty for rape in Ohio is only 11 years.”

Blackburn said Lawson committed several crimes between June 11, 2006 and March 2017.

A statement was read in court on behalf of the June 2006 victim. She wrote that the damage he caused her is still irreversible 11 years later. Another victim spoke before Lawson in court, hoping to move forward and heal, now that he has been sentenced.

“You can’t take the pain away but if you would ever ask someone to show remorse, his goal is to try to bring closure and make peace with god is what he has said on a jail phone call,” said Blackburn.

There are five known victims, but Blackburn said they may never know how many others are out there.

“This was a tragic situation, a lot of different individuals were harmed. There are a lot of victims still out there that will never quite get closure because of a lot of sexual assaults go unreported,” he said. “Until the day he was caught, there’s been a lot of torment for people and fears of walking uptown late at night and so, I’m glad we’ve ben able to put that to rest and I hope this will encourage more sexual assault victims to report the crime and stand up and face their accuser.”

In January 2016, police in Athens released a sketch of a possible serial rape suspect. The cases were linked together by DNA evidence.

According to the Athens Police Department, at about 2 a.m., June 20, 2015, a woman was walking through a parking lot near the uptown area, when an unknown suspect approached her from behind and attempted to sexually assault her. Police said the suspect was scared away by other people walking in the area.

DNA evidence from that case was linked to a 2006 rape.

In 2006, the female victim was also walking home from the uptown area when she noticed an unknown man following her. Police said when the victim arrived home, the suspect illegally entered the residence and forcibly raped the victim before running from the scene.

At the time the sketch was released, Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle said, “We will find him. We have the DNA. You can’t run from DNA evidence so we will find him. It’s just a matter of time.”

Authorities said Lawson was also connected with another rape case in Lancaster, Ohio on March 17, 2017. they said DNA connected from that case matched DNA collected from the Athens cases.

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