20-28 year prison sentence for 2017 armed robbery spree

Nathaniel Lawrence (Photo: New Hanover Co. DA's Office)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WWAY) — A judge has sentenced a man to 20-28 years in prison for a string of armed robberies in New Hanover County.

Friday, a New Hanover County jury found Nathaniel Thomas Lawrence, 25, guilty of five counts of Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon and eight counts of Second-Degree

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The charges stemmed from a three-week period in late 2017, lasting from November 11 to December 1, when Lawrence and a man named Darron Eugene Edmonds, Jr. robbed local businesses five times. In each instance, the pair entered at either opening or closing time and then held the victims at gunpoint while then getting cash and coins from registers and safes.

The second-degree kidnapping convictions stemmed from the robbers leaving the victims either in back rooms or zip-tied after the robberies.

Five victims, each from a different one of the robberies, testified against Lawrence during the trial. All gave witness to the trauma of the events and to the senselessness of the defendant’s actions.

Lee Monical, who was both the supervisor of the Gordon Road Speedway at the time and a victim during the November 26 robbery, delivered a victim impact statement during sentencing in which he described the continuing after-effects of these crimes on the different employees that he knew.

The robberies were of the Taco Bell located at 2355 South 17th Street (on November 11), the Speedway located at 6769 Gordon Road (on November 18 and again on November 26), the Family Dollar at 2616 Castle Hayne Road (on November 30, when they were joined by a third, unknown accomplice), and the Han-Dee Hugo’s at 820 North College Road (on December 1).

Edmonds was captured near the scene of the last robbery, but Lawrence fled and was eventually found in West Virginia. He was extradited back to Wilmington to face these charges.

Lawrence was one of six people convicted in connection to the 2012 shooting death of Zhen Bo Liu, a delivery driver. In that case, Lawrence was convicted of the lesser offense of Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon and served a 20 to 36 month prison sentence that ended on November 22, 2016.

Edmonds, who had a less serious criminal history than Lawrence, pled guilty on December 21, 2018 and is currently serving a five-to-seven-year sentence in the North Carolina
Department of Adult Correction.