An East Baltimore woman was sentenced Monday to serve 30 years in prison of a life sentence for the death of her 4-year-old son, whom she burned in a scalding bath and dumped with the trash two years ago.
Alicia Lawson, 27, of the Oliver neighborhood, pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse resulting in death. Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn sentenced her to life in prison with all but 30 years suspended and five years of probation, according to a spokeswoman for the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office.
The 4-year-old, Malachi Lawson, had been horribly burned during a scalding bath in July 2019. Police charged Alicia Lawson, the boy’s mother, and her spouse, Shatika Lawson, 42, with his death.
His burns were so bad that the women reported seeing his skin float in the bath water, police wrote in charging documents. The Lawsons worried they would be charged and Malachi would be taken away, officers wrote. Child welfare authorities had removed Malachi from their custody once already. The women tried to treat his burns at home.
Nine days later, Alicia Lawson woke to find him unconscious. The couple would report the boy as missing. Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison asked the public for help in finding Malachi, and neighbors and residents joined the search.
In fact, Alicia Lawson wrapped his body in a blanket and took a Lyft across the city to Gwynn Oak. She put him in a trash bag and placed him in a dumpster in the 5500 block of Haddon Ave., police wrote in charging documents. FBI agents reviewed her web browser history and found she had searched for trash collection sites.
Alicia Lawson had no previous criminal record, her attorney told the judge. She suffered neglect and trauma as a child herself, her attorney said.
Assistant Public Defender Gregory Fischer, the felony division chief in Baltimore, said his client has suffered depression, anxiety and nightmares since her son died.
“Although Alicia Lawson never intended for Malachi to be scalded in hot water, she understands that she should have immediately taken him to the hospital for medical treatment. She accepts full responsibility,” Fischer told the judge. “Ms. Lawson would give anything to go back into time and do things differently by immediately seeking medical treatment for Malachi, regardless of the consequences to her.”
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced the guilty plea and prison sentence in a news release Tuesday.
“The details of this case are horrific and difficult to comprehend,” she wrote. “It is my hope that Alicia Lawson uses her sentence to recognize the unspeakable devastation caused by her heinous behavior as a mother and human being.”
Police charged both Alicia and Shatika Lawson with child abuse resulting in death. A defense attorney for Shatika Lawson has argued that her client did not know the boy had died and that her spouse had dumped his body.
Shatika Lawson is scheduled for trial in February. She’s charged with eight counts, including child abuse, neglect and second-degree murder.