Tuesday, January 28, 2014

TOP STORY >> Two murders in Lonoke County

Leader staff writer

Two men accused of murdering the women in their lives appeared in circuit court in Lonoke on the same day last week, thankfully, an unusual occurrence.

Charlie Bryant, 38, could be described as a pillar of the community, a businessman who volunteered as a deputy for the Lonoke County sheriff. He was a family man with four children and a two-story brick home in Austin that was decorated for Christmas on the morning of Dec. 19 when he was caught on a surveillance camera shooting Sharae Bryant in the head.

Dennis Harrington, who turned 43 just days before his court appearance, is a convicted felon who was out of prison on parole when Rebecca Lauer, his live-in girlfriend, disappeared on July 21.

Harrington is known for abusing women, including his own mother.

If the witnesses who eventually came forward are to be trusted, Lauer had already been dead a week by the time she was reported missing. One claims to have seen her body in the back seat of her boyfriend’s pickup and one confessed to helping him pull her from the pickup and put her on a pile of burning tires.

Two men from different worlds and yet they are both accused of crimes almost too savage to comprehend. That shouldn’t be surprising. It’s been known for years that domestic violence crosses all socio-economic boundaries.

But to read scholarly articles with statistics that say men and women both kill their partners is not the same as reading the affidavits that spell out the evidence against them. The former is mind-boggling, but the detail contained in the latter is the stuff of nightmares.

Charlie Bryant said he shot his wife in self defense. She shot him and he shot back. But he was caught on tape chasing his wife as she ran from their home and around the SUV she had put their little girl into just minutes before.

When he caught up with her, he stood over her and shot her in the head, walked away a few feet and shot himself. Then Bryant crawled back to her and put something beside her. The gun he said she shot him with?

The affidavit doesn’t say but implies that it was. Then, he crawled back to the spot where he shot himself, the spot where he was found when the police and ambulances arrived.

Harrington told investigators that Lauer had simply left his home while he was away and didn’t come back. She left him a note: “I love you DH, Booboo, My Goober…Yours completely, your sweetheart.”

But a witness, perhaps the last person to see her alive, said Harrington brought Lauer to his home that day, beaten and handcuffed, and demanded twice that he have sex with her. The witness said he declined but warned Harrington that he could go back to prison for his treatment of Lauer.

The witness said he told Harrington he wouldn’t turn him in and in fact, he didn’t come forward until Aug. 5, 16 days after Lauer stood in his home bruised, cuffed and with her pants down while Harrington said he would take her to someone who would have sex with her.

The evidence against Bryant is video footage. The evidence against Harrington is a statement by Steven Boulanger, who said he helped Harrington build a fire of old tires and put Lauer’s body on it. That statement is backed up by two bone fragments identified only as belonging to a person with a small frame. The bones were too burned to use for DNA.

Facebook photographs of the Bryants show a smiling, handsome couple, while a photograph of Lauer, released by the sheriff’s department when she was reported missing was of a woman with a sad face and dark circles under her eyes.

Sharae, 34, was seemingly living the American dream while Rebecca, 35, was reportedly connected to her accused killer at least in part by drugs. But if their lives were different, they are surely connected by their deaths that came violently and 50 years too soon.