On December 25, 1929, Charles Davis ¨Charlie¨ Lawson killed his wife and six of his seven children. Charles and Fannie Lawson married in 1911 and had eight children. Unfortunately, one died of pneumonia at 6.
The Lawsons moved to Germantown, North Carolina, in 1918, and he began sharecropping tobacco, and by 1927 he saved enough money to buy a farm on Brook Cove Road. The family worked on fixing up the farmhouse in the evenings, and one evening when Charlie was fixing up the house, he accidentally hit himself in the forehead with an ax.
After the incident, neighbors reported a change in his personality, possibly a head injury that caused the following incident. Weeks before Christmas 1929, Charlie brought his family to Winston Salem and took them shopping for new clothing.
It was unheard-of behavior for Charlie, and he instructed them to stay in their new clothing as well, and he took them to a local photography studio for a family portrait. He stated that it was part of a ¨Christmas surprise¨, which created speculation that the massacre was premeditated. There is further speculation that Charles also impregnated his eldest daughter, Marie.
When Christmas day arrived, Marie, the oldest daughter, began preparing her signature dessert, a cake made with raisins, ready for the feast later in the day. While Marie was in the kitchen, Charlie and Arthur, his eldest son, went out with their two beagles on a hunting trip. While hunting, they ran out of ammunition, and Charlie sent Arthur into Germantown to buy more.
Once Marie finished baking, her two younger siblings, Carrie, 12, and Maybell, 6, planned to visit family nearby. However, they never made it; Charlie was waiting behind the barn, and as they passed, he shot both of them, and not only did he shoot them, but he bludgeoned them to make sure they would not get back up.
Charlie then moved the bodies and placed them in the tobacco barn. After he killed the two girls, he went to the house and shot Fannie, who was on the porch. Marie was inside the house and when she heard shots she had nowhere to run and hide. The two young boys were also inside, James and Raymond. None of them could hide from Charles as he entered the home; he shot Marie and the two young boys.
The last to die was the baby Mary Lou. She was not shot but instead bludgeoned to death. Once he finished the massacre, he went into the woods. It was several hours later that he then shot himself. The only survivor was his son Arthur 19, who he sent into town to buy ammunition for the hunting trip.
When the family's bodies were found, their arms were crossed, and rocks were placed under their heads. At one point, neighbors began gathering around the farm, whether it was because they heard gunshots or the dogs barking.
However, when everyone was gathered around the property, one final gunshot rang out, signifying Charlie's suicide. By this point, the police had gathered on the property, and the last shot led them to find Charlie's body and letters to his parents. Some footprints led police to believe he was pacing before his death.
The final letter stated:
¨Blame nobody but I.¨
Some believe Charlie's actions were premeditated by his statement of ¨a Christmas surprise¨, and others felt that he suffered from a head injury leading to the strange behavior and rumors that Charlie had witnessed an organized crime incident and they were murdered to silence them. The other issue was the relationship between Charlie and his daughter Marie, rumors of sexual abuse which ended in Marie being pregnant.
It was rumored that Fannie had confided to other family members that she was concerned about the incestuous relationship between Charlie and Marie. Some believe he did not want the secret out, so he murdered the family.
Other rumors that the family was cursed, and this rumor only got worse after Arther died at 31, leaving many to believe the family to have been cursed. He left behind a wife and four children. The rumor that Charlie was suffering a head injury was put to rest when an autopsy indicated there was nothing abnormal on the autopsy of his brain.
So what drove Charlie to the massacre of his family will remain a mystery. May the Lawson family RIP.