Former Utah corrections officer captured in Hawaii after 10 years on the run

William F. Lawrence, photo location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of the United States Marshals Service, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A former Utah corrections officer who used his badge to intimidate a woman into performing sex acts with him was arrested Monday in Hawaii after 10 years on the run.

William Lawrence, photo location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of William Lawrence a.k.a. John Phillips Facebook page, St. George News

United States marshals from the District of Utah arrested William F. Lawrence, 41, while he was having lunch at a McDonald’s restaurant in Kauai, Hawaii, the U.S. Marshals Service said in a statement.

Lawrence was initially charged with first-degree felony forcible sodomy, but pleaded guilty in December 2007 to a lesser charge of third-degree felony forcible sexual abuse, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Lawrence fled Utah before his sentencing date that had been rescheduled for April 7, 2008, to allow Lawrence to pay for and complete a psyschosexual evaluation, according to Utah court documents.

After failing to appear for the April hearing, the 3rd District Court in Salt Lake County issued a $150,000 cash-only warrant for Lawrence’s arrest.

Lawrence worked as a correctional officer for the Utah Department of Corrections at the time of the alleged abuse in April 2006 when Lawrence responded to an escort service ad that a woman had placed on Craigslist.

Lawrence had the woman come to his West Jordan apartment and handcuffed her to his bed against her will, according to court documents. He then threatened to take the woman to jail and call child protection authorities if she didn’t provide him with sexual favors.

U.S. Marshals took over the case from West Jordan Police in 2010.

While revisiting cold cases in October, the marshals discovered Lawrence had created a fake identity using the alias John Phillips and that he was living in Hawaii.

“As a former law enforcement officer, Lawrence knew the strategies used to track down fugitives,” Supervisory Deputy United States Marshal Derryl Spencer said in a statement. “He was able to elude law enforcement for years – until now.”

Authorities believe Lawrence was working construction in Hawaii and living a stable life, Spencer said, noting that Lawrence’s teenage daughter – who was born and raised in Utah – was living in Hawaii with him and that Lawrence had a new girlfriend.

On Sunday, two marshals flew to Kauai and arrested Lawrence the next day without incident.

Lawrence is currently behind bars in Hawaii. West Jordan police are coordinating efforts to extradite him back to Utah.

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