Report: Shooting victim told police she feared mom’s boyfriend

02/18/2015 1:41 PM |
Suffolk County investigators arrive on scene Monday morning. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

Suffolk County investigators arrive on scene of the shooting incident Monday morning. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

The 17-year-old girl who was murdered along with her mother in Wading River Sunday night had previously told police she was afraid of the man who would later shoot and kill her, according to records obtained by the News-Review. 

Danielle Lawrence and her sister Brandy, 14, who escaped from the home physically unharmed Sunday, had reported to Riverhead Town police on March 23, 2014, that they were afraid of their mother’s live-in boyfriend, Thomas Calhoun, according to a police report filed on that date.

Mr. Calhoun, 44, killed Tanya and Danielle Lawrence Sunday before turning the gun on himself and ending his own life, investigators said.

Brandy called 911 from inside the home at about 10 p.m. Sunday to report her mother had been shot. She then successfully escaped the house before Mr. Calhoun killed her sister and himself, according to Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer of the Suffolk County Homicide Squad.

The double murder and suicide were the tragic culmination of what police called a long breakup between Ms. Lawrence and Mr. Calhoun.

“That seems to be what started this,” Det. Lt. Beyrer said. “They were in the process of breaking up. It was a long process, but that’s how the argument started [Sunday night].”

Danielle was most likely shot coming to the aide of her injured mother, Det. Lt. Beyrer said.

Town records show police had been called to the 12th Street house where the shooting took place six times in March and April 2014 for domestic incidents.

Police had been called to the house on March 23, 2014, by the girls’ father, Tony Lawrence, who said he had received a call from his daughters asking him to pick them up because “they were afraid of [Mr. Calhoun],” who had been “verbally aggressive with them.”

Calhoun

Thomas Calhoun

Mr. Lawrence, a longtime teacher and former lacrosse coach in the Riverhead School District, then told police that when he arrived at the house Mr. Calhoun told him, “I’ll fight you right now.”

Mr. Calhoun told police he and Mr. Lawrence had a verbal dispute because Ms. Lawrence had not given permission for her ex-husband to pick up his daughters on that date, according to the incident report.

Mr. Lawrence told police he would appear in Suffolk County Family Court the next day to petition for custody of his daughters.

An incident report filed on March 25, 2014, states that officials in the Riverhead School District contacted Ms. Lawrence that morning to request that she prepare clothing and personal items for her daughters, both students in the district, while they stayed with their father. When police arrived to retrieve the items, Mr. Calhoun became uncooperative, the report states.

Bob Greenberg, who lives across the street from the Lawrence family, said Monday morning that he had “heard arguments [at the Lawrence house] from time to time” since Mr. Calhoun had moved in.

Pieter Williams, a freshman at Riverhead High School who was visiting the Greenberg house Sunday night, said he heard the argument Sunday night and then the gunshots. He said he would never have expected the incident to take a fatal turn.

“I was about 50 feet away,” Pieter said.

Riverhead Town and New York State police quickly arrived at the scene of the shooting and urged neighbors to get inside their houses.

Approximately two hours later, after more than a dozen law enforcement vehicles had swarmed the area and blocked nearby roadways, police entered the house.

Tanya (left) and Danielle Lawrence (Credit: Facebook)

Tanya (left) and Danielle Lawrence (Credit: Facebook)

Inside they found multiple guns — though police declined to say how many — and the three bodies. Det. Lt. Beyrer said it’s unclear exactly when Mr. Calhoun shot himself and that police were still trying to ascertain exactly which guns were used in the shootings.

Ms. Lawrence, 43, and her former husband, 50, were divorced in October 2013.

Court records show that Mr. Calhoun had his share of run-ins with the law. He was convicted eight times in Riverhead Town Justice Court in the 1990s on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to driving while intoxicated, driving while ability impaired and harassment.

News-Review archives show he had been arrested at least twice more in the past 15 years — for DWAI in 2000 and DWI in 2011.

In 2005, he struck and seriously injured a 69-year-old woman who was crossing East Main Street in Riverhead, but no charges were filed in that case.

In 2011, while employed as a security guard for a private community in Westhampton, Mr. Calhoun filed for bankruptcy.

Jesse Swenk, who lives on nearby Park Street, also acknowledged that domestic incidents had been ongoing at the house where all three bodies were discovered Sunday night. He said Monday that Mr. Lawrence — whom he described as “a great guy” — had been having issues with Mr. Calhoun since September.

“One of the last times I saw [Mr. Lawrence], he was saying there was an issue at the house,” Mr. Swenk said. “He was trying to get the cops involved. It’s a mess.”

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With Tim Gannon, Joseph Pinciaro, Jen Nuzzo, Joe Werkmeister and Michael White

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