The Case of Lawrence Singleton

September 29th, 1978. Berkeley, California. A 15-year-old girl, Mary Vincent, stood alongside a few others hoping for a ride. Hitchhiking was more common at the time, and many wouldn’t think twice getting a ride from a stranger. Her plan was to go to her grandfather’s home in Corona, CA. After waiting for sometime a blue van approached the young girl and beckoned her over. An older man with a smile asked where to and she told him she was trying to make it to Los Angeles. He agreed to take her even though it was out of the way and motioned her into his van. Some of the other women waiting with Mary asked her to stay, the man gave off some odd vibes but she felt confident in her ability to take care of herself. The man seemed nice enough.

 The man was Lawrence Bernard Singleton, in his early 50s, and former merchant seaman. Mary got into the car and the two were off to Southern California. Knowing just how long the trip could be, and sensing no immediate danger, Mary soon found herself falling asleep. It’s not clear how long she drifted off to sleep for but when she awoke she quickly realized that Larry was not going the route they agreed upon, he had missed an important turn off. She became angry and insisted Larry turn the car around immediately. Larry seemed to shrug it off and claimed it to be an honest mistake, as he started to look for a way to turn the car around.

Larry Singleton.

Larry Singleton.

Once on the right path again, Larry decided to pull the car over, claiming he had to urinate. Once the van rolled to a stop, the two got out to stretch their legs. Mary noticed her shoe laces were undone and she bent down to tie them. As she did so, Larry crept up behind her and struck her over the head with a hammer. He subdued the child and forced her to drink some unknown alcohol. He then drove further down a nearby canyon where Larry would continue his attack. Larry then tied her hands behind her back and brutally raped the girl repeatedly. Larry then decided the girl would be able to identify him and that she would have to die.

 Larry laid the girl on the side of the road, took out a hatchet and began hacking away at the girl’s arms. One can only imagine the agony and blind pain felt by Mary as the sadistic maniac, removed both of her arms while she was still completely aware of her surroundings and fully conscious. Once finished, he would send her down the canyon, stuffing her into a pipe where he would assume, she would die shortly from blood loss. Shortly after the ordeal Mary would lose consciousness and nearly die from her wounds.

Mary Vincent after her encounter with Larry.

Mary Vincent after her encounter with Larry.

 It’s hard to tell what was going on in Larry Singleton’s mind before, during and after the attack. How much of this was premeditated compared to it being a split decision of mayhem. Had he jumped in his van that morning and knew he would perform such despicable deeds on such a helpless victim? One thing is certain, when he had finished everything, he thought he had gotten away with murder.

 Miraculously, Mary slowly began to come around. She had been left for dead but she was strong. She was also left nude, covered in her own blood. She knew she had to get out of this situation. She was able to make her way out of the ravine, she was left in and start walking down the road with her arms raised, hoping this would help save what was left of her arms. One car approached but started to speed off in a panic at the site of the victim. Thankfully shortly thereafter, two women were lost, and came across Mary, still staggering in the heat. They stopped, wrapped her in towels and drove her to an airport where further help was contacted.

 Mary would go on to generate a detailed composite sketch and description of her attacker and which would go on to be recognized by a neighbor of Larry’s. He would be arrested and put on trial for his attack on Mary Vincent. 6 months later, Mary would be staring down her attacker in court where her testimony successfully put him behind bars. Unfortunately he would only be sentenced to 14 years. The judge presiding over the court remarked: "If I had the power, I would send him to prison for the rest of his natural life.” Larry would go on to stun absolutely no one by admitting he whispered the following to Mary while in court: "I'll finish this job, if it takes me the rest of my life."  Mary would go on to win a civil judgement of $2.56 million in a civil case against Singleton but would be unable to collect because he had nothing to his name.

 Mary and the public were understandably upset over the sentence, feeling it too short and unjust. This would lead to the passing of the “Singleton Bill” which ceases the early release of criminals who used torture in their crime and allowed for a 25-to-life sentences as well.

One would like to think that the story would start to wrap itself up here. Larry served his unjust but full sentence and Mary was able to make a speedy recovery and lived a happy life. Sadly this would not be the case. Mary faced multiple challenges as a direct result of her attack and suffered from both emotional and physical problems. She had trouble maintaining relationships, finding a job and was unable to perform as a dancer which was her passion prior to the event. She would become a devoted mother of 2 and become an accomplished artist. All of this would help her cope with the pain, but will always have a constant reminder of the monster who offered her a ride that fateful day.

Larry Singleton would go on to serve only 8 years on a 14 year sentence based on his good behavior and performing his job well as a teacher’s aide in prison. Just prior to being released, his psychiatrist stated the following: “Because he is so out of touch with his hostility and anger, he remains an elevated threat to others’ safety inside and outside prison.” After being paroled, no town would allow the monster to live in their city, knowing what he was capable of doing to children. Crowds of people would gather and ensure there would be no place for Larry in their town. After unsuccessfully attempting to relocate him several times in different cities, Larry was finally allowed to live on the grounds of San Quentin in a trailer.

Larry would eventually be allowed to move back to his native state of Florida where he would continue to get into trouble. In 1990, he would be convicted of theft twice, serving a 60-day sentence. Both theft charges were for small, inexpensive objects.

Larry Singleton mugshot.

Larry Singleton mugshot.

February 19th, 1997. Tampa, Florida. A local house painter had noticed a horrific scene unfolding inside a nearby residence. He quickly called police and described to them the disturbing details. A nude man, covered in blood was repeatedly stabbing a nude woman who lay motionless on the sofa. He would claim to the 9-1-1 caller that he could hear the bones being crunched after each stab. The nude man who just continued on with his stabbing frenzy was none other then Larry Singleton.

The victim was 31-year-old Roxanne Hayes. She was a mother of 3 and doing what she could to support her family. She had agreed to meet with Larry for $20. Larry would go on to claim that she tried to take more than the agreed upon amount from his wallet, a struggle ensued. While he was trying to get a knife from her, she wound up being stabbed multiple times. His story is clearly made up due to the testimony of the house painter. An unconscious victim cannot struggle with a killer. Shortly after the incident Larry would attempt to take his own life but was unsuccessful, he would be housed in a psychiatric hospital for some time before heading to jail to await trial.

Mary would fly from California to Florida to testify on behalf of Roxanne and to ensure this would never happen again. She would go into great detail what happened to her and paint a very clear picture why the ultimate punishment should be handed down to Singleton: “I was raped. I had my arms cut off. He used a hatchet. He left me to die.” Singleton’s defense claimed that he never meant to kill Roxanne, that it was just a mistake due to too much emotion at the time. It took the jury 4 hours to come to a decision of guilty.

On April 14th, 1998, Singleton was given a death sentence for the senseless and horrific murder of Roxanne Hayes. Singleton appeared to not care when Judge Anderson passed down the sentence on him: "This was an unprovoked, senseless killing of a human being. We are living in times worse than Sodom and Gomorrah."

December 28th, 2001. Singleton was serving his sentence, and awaiting his death when he died at the age of 74 from cancer. Many believe Mary and Roxanne were not Larry Singleton’s only victims, that he could be responsible for as many as a dozen murders.