Opp man pleads in rape, drug cases

Published 2:58 am Thursday, October 26, 2017

An Opp man pleaded guilty to rape and drug charges Wednesday from two different incidents.

Melvin James Lawrence, 59, was set for trial Wednesday morning for a possession of marijuana case from May 2014, when Opp Police arrested him on a Coffee County warrant and found marijuana in his pocket.

He had been convicted in 2012 of possession of marijuana II.

Lawrence was arrested in May 2015 on rape II charges after an investigation by the OPD and Covington County Department of Human Resources revealed Lawrence had sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old girl. At the time, Star-News records show that Lawrence was held in the Covington County Jail on a $1 million bond.

On Wednesday, Circuit Judge Lex Short called the case, and the jury was struck consisting of eight women and six men.

After the jury was struck, Lawrence decided he wished to plead guilty.

He was sentenced to 204 months for the statutory rape and 65 months for possession of marijuana and was remanded to the Department of Corrections.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Grace Jeter said, “It is regrettable that a jury had to be struck before Lawrence decided to plead guilty, but I am glad we were able to resolve both his cases and especially that we were able to spare the victim the ordeal of testifying in open court.”

Assistant District Attorney Nikki Stephens helped with the prosecution.