Mark and Chris Lawrence are countersuing charity’s board of directors, claiming accusations are false.
QUINCY — Mark Lawrence made his first appearance in Adams County Circuit Court on Wednesday morning after he was arrested on two theft charges following an indictment by an Adams County grand jury on May 12.
Lawrence is charged with theft over $100,000, a Class 1 felony punishable for 4 to 15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, and theft over $10,000, a Class 2 felony punishable for 3 to 7 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Lawrence appeared with his attorney, Don Schuering, before Judge Roger Thomson on Wednesday.
Lawrence, 63, appeared voluntarily for Wednesday’s hearing. Bond was set at $200,000 when the arrest warrant was issued, and Lawrence needed to post 10 percent ($20,000). However, Schuering said an agreement had been reached with the Adams County State’s Attorney’s office to reduce the bond to $15,000, allowing Lawrence to post $1,500 while continuing to work at a job in Missouri.
When Thomson asked assistant state’s attorney Todd Eyler if the state was OK with the agreement, Eyler tersely responded, “That’s what I’m told our office is agreeing to. It’s not my agreement, but I’m not the one calling the shots.”
Lawrence is scheduled for arraignment on June 1.
Lawrence and his wife, Chris Lawrence, were the founders of 2x4s for Hope, a local charity which builds homes for homeless and at-risk veterans. However, the organization’s board voted in November to remove Mark Lawrence as president and Chris Lawrence as treasurer.
The 2x4s for Hope board also filed a civil suit against the Lawrences. Quincy attorney Gerry Timmerwilke filed a temporary restraining order on behalf of the board against the Lawrences to keep the couple away from the charity’s finances and property. Board members and associates removed 2×4s for Hope property — computers, tools, trailers and other construction equipment — from the Lawrences’ premises in Melrose Township, where most of it was stored.
Adams County State’s Attorney Gary Farha confirmed in November the Illinois State Police was conducting an investigation.
Farha said he learned the problem when tools donated to 2×4s for Hope by Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation — a Brookfield, Wis., company which develops, manufactures and markets power tools — began appearing at Jacksonville and Galesburg Warehouse Bargains stores. The tools were meant for use in the construction of houses for veterans.
Farha said Quincy Warehouse Bargains did not make out checks to 2×4s for Hope but to Mark Lawrence, who allegedly did not transfer the funds into the 2x4s for Hope accounts. Farha also said 2×4s for Hope allegedly wrote multiple checks for tens of thousands of dollars to Lawrence Construction, a business owned by Mark Lawrence that ceased operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Illinois State Police conducted a thorough and fair investigation into this incident,” Farha said in a press release. “We believe that the facts and evidence point to the guilt of the defendant (Lawrence) and are committed to ensuring that justice is done in this case.”
Chris Lawrence was not named in the grand jury indictment last week.
Mark Lawrence’s arrest came one week after he and his wife filed a counterclaim to the civil lawsuit filed against the couple by 2x4s for Hope board. The defendants in the suit are 2x4s for Hope president Kevin Murphy and board members Terra Murphy, Renea Peters, Kevin Peters, Zach Shaffer and Amber Shaffer. Terra Murphy resigned from the 2x4s for Hope board of directors in March.
The Lawrences claim that when the board of directors went to the Adams County State’s Attorney’s office and Illinois State Police to request an investigation into the couple’s handling of the charity’s finances, those charges were false. The Lawrences are claiming defamation and asking for $100,000 in damages from each of the six board members.
“The board of directors is investigating and reviewing the counterclaim filed by the Lawrences,” Kevin Murphy said in a prepared statement given to local media. “The claims in this counterclaim are without merit, and the Lawrences are well aware of what their conduct was and what has led to their removal. Today’s indictment is vindication for the action the board took in November. We fully intend upon disputing and challenging those allegations in the counterclaim.”
Miss Clipping Out Stories to Save for Later?
Click the Purchase Story button below to order a print of this story. We will print it for you on matte photo paper to keep forever.Purchase Story