Billings man, 19, held in Denver for great-grandmother's death at South Side home

2013-07-22T15:40:00Z 2014-03-27T16:18:06Z Billings man, 19, held in Denver for great-grandmother's death at South Side homeBy ZACH BENOIT The Billings Gazette

A 19-year-old Billings man has confessed to killing his great-grandmother, whose body was found Friday in her South Side home, Police Chief Rich St. John said Monday.

At an afternoon news conference, St. John announced that Denver police arrested Robert Alan Thompson on Saturday morning in connection with the death of his great-grandmother, 77-year-old Shirley Lawrence.

He described the incident as a "really tragic and egregious scene" that his officers and detectives handled well during the investigation.

On Friday night, a relative stopped by Lawrence's home, at 4434 Murphy Ave., to check on her. The relative discovered her body inside the house.

An autopsy conducted Monday determined that Lawrence died of blunt-force trauma and multiple stab wounds.

On Friday night and Saturday morning, police described the death as "suspicous" but did not release more information.

Investigators noted that Lawrence's television and car were missing and soon learned that Thompson had been staying with her, St. John said.

"He was gone and the car was gone, so that became a place to look right away," he said.

Police developed information that Thompson had connections in Denver and put out an attempt-to-locate notice for him and the car.

At about 9:40 a.m. Saturday, Denver police officers found Thompson in the car, along with three juvenile males from the Billings area, St. John said.

Police there questioned all four and Thompson eventually admitted to killing Lawrence, St. John said. Police determined that the three males, who were cooperative when questioned, weren't involved and released them, he said.

Thompson was arrested in Denver on suspicion of deliberate homicide and is being held in jail there until he is returned to Billings. It wasn't immediately clear when he would be sent back or when his first court appearance in Denver will be held.

St. John said that initially the motive for the killing appears to be for the television and car, although police continue to investigate.

"There's a lot of follow-up work to do on our part," he said.

"Hopefully we can get a successful prosecution down the road."

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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