For the past several days, witnesses and investigators at the trial of Christopher Lawing, a Concord man accused of murdering his college girlfriend, have been asked to remember details from conversations and scenes nearly 20 years old.
Lawing was charged in 1997 with murdering Lacoy McQueen, a Shaw University student in the 1990s who had ambitions of becoming a doctor. But prosecutors and police dismissed the case before a trial then, citing a lack of enough evidence to proceed.
In 2014, after evidence from the long-lingering case was tested again using technology unavailable decades earlier, Lawing was again charged with murder.
His trial began in Wake County Superior Court this week. Judge Michael O’Foghludha has presided over the hearing that, despite the passage of time, has evoked strong emotions from friends of McQueen.
McQueen, according to friends and investigators, was pregnant on May 17, 1996, when she went missing.
After refreshing their memories with notes and reports from 20 years ago, investigators testified this week that Lawing told them he, McQueen and her mother had talked about terminating the pregnancy.
McQueen’s close female friends, though, said she had told them as she left her dorm room at Shaw the day she went missing that she had opted against abortion and planned to tell Lawing in person.
Lawing, according to investigators, acknowledged having an argument with McQueen in Pullen Park, not far from the dorm room where he lived at N.C. State University. He told investigators who interviewed him afterward that the two parted ways, angry at each other.
Two investigators recounted his description of how McQueen left. They said this week that Lawing told them she left in a car that might have been bluish in color. One investigator reported that Lawing recalled seeing her get in the back seat with another man and a male driver in the front.
He told another investigator a slightly different account.
Nine months later, a construction crew found McQeen’s remains in a remote area off U.S. 1 near Kittrell, a crossroads in Vance County.
The body had decomposed. Her skull was found by the construction crew. Investigators later found bones in socks and shoes that belonged to McQueen. Other clothes that McQueen had been wearing were close by in the wooded area.
Dr. Keith Lehman, a medical examiner, said he could not determine the cause of death because the body was so decomposed. Because of the circumstances surrounding her disappearance and the discovery of the bones in the woods, Lehman said he concluded that the manner of death was most likely homicide.
Defense attorney Celia Visser has described the case as one in which investigators settled on their suspect before having all the facts.