Cassopolis man gets prison time for molesting children

Published 2:28 pm Friday, January 26, 2024

CASSOPOLIS — A Cassopolis man is going to prison after a jury convicted him last November for sexually molesting two young girls.

Craig Andrew Lawrence, 40, of Cassopolis, was convicted Nov. 21 of nine counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct and seven counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced Friday in Cass County Circuit Court to nine terms of 25 years to 40 years in prison and seven terms of two years to 15 years in prison. He has credit for 492 days served and must pay $2,198.

The prison terms will run concurrently. The 25 year sentence for the first degree CSC convictions is the mandatory minimum sentence under the law. Lawrence must also register as  sex offender and is subject to lifetime electronic monitoring.

The incidents occurred 2010 and 2022 against two underage girls at a residence in Cass County. The two victims testified at trial that Lawrence began grooming them at an early age and eventually sexually molested over the course of a decade or longer.

Friday, Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz said the court and the jury had to journey “into the heart of darkness” during the trial for the light of truth to ultimately prevail. “The victims were brave and resolute,” he said. “In addition to providing the facts, they neutralized the danger of having other young girls being victimized and molested by him in the future.”

Fitz noted that Lawrence was able to get away with his actions for years because he threatened them and their mother if they told anyone about what he did. “The defendant needs justice here today and the victims need justice,” he said.

Defense attorney Robert Drake said that Lawrence disagrees with the verdict and maintains the molestation didn’t happen. He noted that his client has no prior criminal history and does not display any abnormal behavior or criminal personality.

Cass County Circuit Judge Mark Herman said Lawrence’s claim that it was all a big scheme for the girls’ mother to get money was unbelievable to him, especially in light of the victims coming into testify against him in court.