On 29th September 1978, 50-year-old Lawrence Bernard Singleton, a former merchant seaman in the Navy, chopped off 15-year-old Mary Vincent’s hands and threw her off a 30-foot cliff at Interstate 5 in Del Puerto Canyon.
Lawrence reportedly had a very bad temper and was a misogynist. He was recently divorced by his second wife. He had a strained relationship with his teenage daughter because they had fought earlier that year and never reconciled.
Prior to this, Lawrence had been convicted for his contribution to the delinquency of a minor. He also had a history of alcohol abuse.
Early September 1978, Mary Vincent ran away from her home in Las Vegas. Her parents were going through a very messy divorce and Mary just couldn’t handle the chaotic situation at home, unlike her six siblings.
She lived on the streets for a brief period before she hitchhiked to her grandfather’s house in California. After some time, she began to feel homesick and decided to hitchhike back to Las Vegas.
Mary was pointing south to indicate the direction she needed to go. An old man in a van pulled up and offered to give Mary a ride, although where she wanted to go was out of his way. That was the first red flag.
All of the hitchhikers tried to talk Mary out of hitchhiking with him. Mary being so desperate and lonely thought to herself that she just couldn’t go on another day roaming the streets.
She ignored the hitchhikers’ protests and hopped into his van and they made their way. She was extremely exhausted and sleepy. She knew it wasn’t a smart move to fall asleep but she just couldn’t help it.
After some time, she jolted awake and realized they were not going south. They briefly stopped on the side of the road so he could relieve himself, she intended on bolting once she had a chance.
As she was getting out of the van, she realized her shoelaces were untied. So she planned to get out of the van, tie her shoelaces and take off. However, when she was tying her shoelaces, she got bonked on the head with a sledgehammer. She immediately passed out.
When she gained consciousness, she was naked and tied up at the back of Lawrence’s van. He raped her repeatedly multiple times all through the night and into the morning.
When it was morning, he pulled her out of the van. She was still tied up, naked, and now bleeding. He took a hatchet from his toolbox and swung it at her left arm. She started to feel like she was falling back to the grass.
When we are falling, our reflex action would be to grab onto something to avoid falling. She grabbed onto his arm but she was still falling. She said it seemed to happen in slow motion. She was confused.
When she hit the ground, she saw blood gushing out of her left arm as it had been severed off at her elbow. The pain was excruciating and she felt as if her hand was on fire. Lawrence then swung at her right elbow and that was severed off too.
She just lay there bleeding and saw that he was trying to flick off her left hand that was still clutching his arm tightly.
He then dragged her into the woods. She stayed still to prevent more blood loss. She didn’t scream as she believed that would just make him mutilate her even further. He then threw her off a 30-foot cliff and left her to die! This was his way of murdering her.
Luckily he didn’t kill her, she was badly injured and had no lower arms but she climbed up the mountain with broken ribs, walked with her arms reached to the sky to stop the bleeding. Finally someone saw her and she was rushed to hospital for treatment and miraculously survived.
Lawrence had the audacity to deny everything and said that Mary wasn’t a hitchhiker but a prostitute. He said if his DNA was found on her, that’s because she is a prostitute and he paid her $10.
With Mary’s strong testimony and all of the evidence, Lawrence was convicted of kidnapping, rape, mayhem (mutilation), attempted murder, and sex crime.
All of this combined, the maximum legal time that he could get in the state of California was 14 years. Just 14 years! Even drug possession leads to more years than that.
The worst part of this was, that he was paroled after serving only 8 years! He got out 6 years early! He got reduced time for good behaviour and working as a teaching assistant in a prison classroom.
After his release
On 19th February 1997 in Florida, a frantic neighbour of Lawrence Singleton called 911. She said that she saw him attacking a woman through the window of his house.
The police immediately arrived at the scene and found Roxanne Hayes dead. She was a single mom of 3 kids and worked as a prostitute to support them. She was stabbed multiple times in her upper body.
Lawrence was found with blood all over his clothes. He again tried to play defense. He said he’s just an old man who didn’t know what he was doing because he maybe had dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Mary came once more to testify against him. She told the judge that her life was turned upside down by what he did to her and ever since he was sentenced to prison, she had been trying to get her life back together.
Finally, in 2001, the judge sentenced him to death. This is a death sentence I agree with but here’s the bad news. He died of cancer in prison that same year before he was executed.
There was a lot of outrage after this which resulted in legislation. California then passed a ‘Singleton bill’ which prevents the early release of offenders who have committed a crime where torture is used and now the maximum punishment is 25 years to life.
Mary Vincent won a civil lawsuit that awarded her $2.56 million against Lawrence Singleton. However, she was unable to collect even a little bit because he was unemployed. He was in poor health. He was old and he only had $200 in his savings account.
She was only awarded about $6000 from the California victim fund.