One more reason to institute the death penalty in this state.

Man who fatally shot Itasca County deputy in 1981 is up for parole
By Tom Olsen Today at 7:24 a.m.

1981 Duluth News Tribune file -- PAROLE1226c3 -- Audie L. Fox, then 27, of Pengilly, Minn., is led from the Itasca County Courthouse on Nov. 2, 1981, after being arraigned on charges of first-degree murder in hte slaying of Itasca County Deputy Robert "Beefy" Lawson. Escorting Fox is Chief Deputy Robert Serich (left) and Deputy Steve Hurst.

1981 Duluth News Tribune file — PAROLE1226c3 — Audie L. Fox, then 27, of Pengilly, Minn., is led from the Itasca County Courthouse on Nov. 2, 1981, after being arraigned on charges of first-degree murder in hte slaying of Itasca County Deputy Robert “Beefy” Lawson. Escorting Fox is Chief Deputy Robert Serich (left) and Deputy Steve Hurst.

Audie Lynn Fox, the perpetrator in one of the Iron Range’s most notorious and shocking crimes, is up for parole.

Fox, then 27, fatally shot Itasca County sheriff’s deputy Robert “Beefy” Lawson inside a Pengilly home during an 18-hour standoff on Oct. 29, 1981.

The execution-style killing resulted in a highly publicized trial and a mandatory life sentence for Fox after he was found guilty of first-degree murder. And whereas current law would ensure that Fox remains imprisoned for life, statutes at the time left open the possibility of his release through the parole process.

Now 61, Fox goes before a Minnesota Department of Corrections board for a “life sentence review” on Jan. 12. Members of the public have until Monday to submit letters in support or opposition.

His potential release has been publicly opposed by both the Lawson family and Itasca County law enforcement officials.

“It reopens the prior wounds,” son Bob Lawson told the Grand Rapids Herald-Review last month. “I hear my dad’s name on a weekly basis, how he helped people. But this (parole hearing) brings that day on the doorstep.”

According to court documents and news reports:

Beefy Lawson was off-duty when he agreed to go to the Pengilly home at the request of Fox’s estranged wife. Pam Fox had requested his help in picking up the couple’s two children, who were at the home owned by Audie Fox’s parents.

When Lawson entered the home, he found the two young children sitting at the kitchen table with Fox’s aunt. Fox then emerged, pointing a .357 pistol at Lawson’s head.

The defendant demanded Lawson give him a phone number for Pam Fox, but the deputy said he did not have it on hand. Fox made Lawson lay down on the floor, again demanding the phone number.

When Lawson was unable to produce the number, Fox counted to three and shot the deputy in the head.

A lengthy standoff ensued, with officers forcibly entering the home at about 4:30 a.m., arresting Fox. The children were uninjured.

At an April 1982 trial in Brainerd, Fox did not dispute that he killed Lawson, but his attorney maintained that he was mentally ill and incapable of understanding his actions.

Fox has filed a number of unsuccessful appeals of his conviction and life sentence.

In 1983, the Minnesota Supreme Court denied his argument that the trial court erred in a number of jury instructions. In 1991, the high court dismissed Fox’s assertion that he was unable to participate in his defense because of the effects of an antipsychotic drug that he was administered before and during trial.

Fox previously was denied parole in 1995 and 2005. He remains incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Faribault.

Public comments on his parole review will be viewed only by Department of Corrections staff and an advisory panel. Comments must be submitted by Monday, and can be emailed to brittany.anderson@state.mn.us.

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