Text message: "I just killed a guy, I think"

BY admin

April 25 2005 11:00 PM ET

Claims that a 29-year-old Waterloo, Iowa, man was killed because he was openly gay appear to be supported by telephone records in court documents obtained by The Des Moines Register.

The records include transcripts of cellular telephone text messages sent by Joseph Lawrence, 23, who is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Jason Gage. The openly gay waiter was found slain in his apartment on March 14, with a shard from a broken bottle plunged into his neck.

Lawrence acknowledged striking Gage with the bottle and stabbing him with a piece of glass during a fight. He said Gage had made a sexual pass at him, court documents said. His trial is set for late May. "I just killed a guy, I think" flashed the first text message, sent to a New Mexico friend's cell phone in the early-morning hours of March 12, according to the documents. "U need to call me soon" flashed a second message sent to Michael Bailey, another friend in New Mexico. "I need help from you" flashed a third message to a friend in Iowa, where Lawrence had moved just a few weeks before.

Bailey said he crawled out of bed in Farmington, N.M., to call Lawrence. He thought the conversation that followed was a joke, until he heard Lawrence had been arrested. Lawrence told him "some guy was trying to get up on him real hard, trying to hit on him real bad, so he beat him over the head with a bottle," Bailey told investigators.

Bailey, who had known Lawrence in New Mexico, told investigators that he had never seen any evidence that Lawrence was aggressive or hateful toward gays. He said Gage would have "had to do something to provoke" Lawrence, according to court documents. The day after Gage died, Lawrence exchanged additional text messages with Megan Baker, the friend in New Mexico who had received his first message. They suggest that Lawrence wasn't sure Gage was dead.

Baker's message: "You didn't kill anyone, did you?"

No response.

"So did you?"

According to documents, Lawrence responded, "Hope not."

"What happened?" Baker messaged.

"A fight turned real messy got way out of hand," Lawrence responded.

"Are you hurt?" Baker messaged.

"I need to get back there fast," Lawrence replied. (AP)

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