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Man to stand trial in death of girl and fire that killed her

He will also be tried in stabbing of 2 others

Published: Saturday, March 29 2003 12:00 a.m. MST

FARMINGTON — A judge has ruled that Mark Anthony Ott should go to trial on capital murder charges for allegedly setting a deadly house fire that killed a 6-year-old girl asleep inside.

Second District Judge Rodney Page ordered Ott to be arraigned on charges of capital murder in the death of Lacey Lawrence, who was sleeping in the bedroom of a home on Sept. 1, 2002.

On that night, Ott allegedly broke into the house and repeatedly stabbed his estranged wife's boyfriend with a chef's knife. He also knifed one of his own stepdaughters, then doused furniture with gas and set the place on fire, according to testimony at a two-day preliminary hearing.

Through the emotionally charged hearing, Ott sat impassively in a red jail jumpsuit, both hands shackled at the judge's insistence.

Ott is charged with capital murder along with aggravated arson, aggravated burglary, three counts of aggravated assault and theft.

He also faces other charges including a third-degree felony charge of damaging a jail, a class B misdemeanor count of criminal mischief, and two third-degree felony charges of assault by a prisoner on two Davis County Jail employees.

Prosecutors advanced two theories — one of "transferred intent" and another of creating a "kill zone" — that they said come into play in this case.

Although this is not a classic transferred intent situation, when someone tries to murder a second person and ends up killing a third, the homicide is the same as if the intended victim had died, argued prosecutor Carvel Harward.

Harward also said this case showed Ott created a kill zone by setting fire to a house that he knew was occupied by several other people, including family members and guests, and that fire resulted in Lacey Lawrence's death.

Harward argued that Ott "willingly and knowingly" intended to commit these crimes. "He went there to kill and he caused a death."

The turbulence of Ott's marriage to his now ex-wife Donna was evident when she testified on Thursday. At times, she looked and sounded visibly angry on the stand and at one point was told by the judge to calm down.

Donna Ott, who said her ex-husband beat her and was always breaking things in a fury, obtained two protective orders to keep Mark Ott away about the same time she filed for divorce on June 12, 2002. A month later she met Allen Lawrence.

She testified that in the early hours of Sept. 1, 2002, her estranged husband broke into the Otts' house brandishing a knife and rushed to the bedroom to attack Allen Lawrence.

In the house that night were Donna Ott, Allen Lawrence, Lawrence's daughter Lacey, Donna Ott's two daughters from a previous marriage — Sarah, then 17, and Lucy, then 14 — and a friend who was staying overnight with Lucy.

She testified that after Mark Ott attacked Allen Lawrence and set fire to the master bed and a love seat in the living room, he raked a knife across the side of his own neck and said, "Are you happy now? Look at what you made me do."

Her daughter, Sarah Gooch, testified that she saw Mark Ott repeatedly stabbing Allen Lawrence with the knife and she was stabbed in the abdomen when she jumped on her stepfather's back and started hitting him to help Lawrence.

Lawrence, who often stared straight at Mark Ott sitting at the defense table, testified he has 23 scars from knife wounds to his back, head and arms as well as permanent partial damage to one eye.

"It's strange, but I didn't feel pain but I did feel the cold of the knife," Allen Lawrence said.

Gooch and Allen Lawrence were the first to make it out of the house, with Donna Ott running to get daughter Lucy and Lucy's friend. In her testimony, Donna Ott burst into tears when describing how she had done a "mental head count" and thought all six occupants of the burning house had gotten out, but then she recalled Lacey was still inside.

"I wish I'd gone back into that house," she said, sobbing.

James Dudzinski, arson investigator with the Utah Fire Marshall's Office, said he could see the scorched outline of Lacey Lawrence's body in the bed where she had been sleeping when overtaken by the "very hot" fire.

Defense attorneys tried to paint a picture of Mark Ott as a beleaguered man who was turned out of his own home, quickly replaced by a lover and perhaps unaware that other people, such as Lacey, were sleeping in the house that night.

Layton Police Sgt. Allen Swanson testified that while bringing Mark Ott back from Idaho, where he allegedly fled in his wife's truck, Mark Ott said that "voices" in his head told him to go to his house because "Allen was in his home" and he had to "get Allen out of the home."

Mark Ott has been evaluated for mental competency and has been deemed fit to stand trial.

Defense attorney Aric Cramer introduced a written statement Mark Ott made to police in jail that stated, "I don't care what anybody says, I didn't know that girl was in the house."

Page set April 7 as Mark Ott's arraignment date before 2nd District Judge Michael Allphin.


E-mail: lindat@desnews.com

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