URBANA – A Champaign man convicted in a brutal armed robbery of two employees at a Champaign store last summer faces six to 30 years in prison.
A Champaign County jury Thursday deliberated about 80 minutes before finding Lenard Lawrence, 38, whose last known address was in the 1300 block of North Champaign Street, guilty of robbing Grant Luttrell and Candace Williams at gunpoint as they worked at the Dollar General, 817 W. Bloomington Road, C, on July 20.
Luttrell was seriously injured in the attack at the store, where several people were shopping. He sustained a broken nose and cuts to his head. He was also kicked and stomped on the neck as he lay on the floor.
Testimony before Judge Tom Difanis was that a man wearing a blue bandana over his face and a baseball cap on his head entered the Dollar General about 7 p.m. on July 20 and announced the robbery. He displayed a black handgun and ordered Williams, who was working her first day in the store, to open the cash drawer.
Cursing and pointing the gun at Williams' head, the man told her she better get the drawer open because he had nothing to lose and would kill her.
Luttrell, who was working in another part of the store, said he was alerted by another female employee that the store was being robbed. That woman ran out the back door to the nearby Discount Smoke Shop for help as Luttrell made his way to where the robber was.
"I thought he was going to shoot her because she couldn't open the register," Luttrell said.
Luttrell said the robber, calling him by his first name of Grant, then ordered him to get to the register. When he did, the robber ordered him to lie on the floor. Luttrell said the robber then kicked him in the back of the leg and stomped on his neck and head. Luttrell said he passed out briefly when his face hit the concrete floor.
Luttrell said when he came to, he could see the man had the gun pointed to Williams' head. Luttrell told the robber he would open the register and when he tried to get up the robber grabbed him by the hair and slammed his face into the cash register.
Luttrell said he was bleeding heavily from the nose and mouth as he tried to get his keys out to open the cash drawer. He said once the drawer was open the robber grabbed it then hit him in the back of the head with the gun before fleeing.
Asked if he recognized the robber, Luttrell said, "I had seen him many, many times," and identified him as Lenard Lawrence.
Luttrell said Lawrence had been a customer in the store, had applied for a job there in May, and had often come in to see his cousin, who worked there.
Also identifying Lawrence was Jassem Holvani, an employee of the smoke shop. He said after the female employee from Dollar General ran in his store, he grabbed a baseball bat and ran outside. He saw a man get on a bike and asked him where he was going.
He said the man, who was not wearing a bandana on his face or a ball cap, lifted his shirt to reveal a pistol and said: "What do you want to do?"
Holvani said he stepped aside and let the man pass. Later that night, he identified Lawrence from a photo lineup as the man he saw fleeing on the bicycle.
Testifying on Lawrence's behalf was his girlfriend, Sammie Pierson of Champaign, who said she had dropped Lawrence off at his sister's on Maple Street about 6:30 p.m. and that about 7:15 p.m. she was talking to him on the phone about when she expected to be done with work.