UPDATE Lawrence family hope arrests will help them heal

Jennifer Hoegg
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John Andrew, pastor at Open Arms, says more than talk is needed to help the homeless

Friday night was the beginning of closure for Harley Lawrence’s family.

“It has been open-ended for the last six months and it has been long,” Ron Lawrence said after an April 25 press conference where the RCMP announced two Berwick-area men had been charged with his brother’s murder.

Read more about the arrest here. 

“If somebody dies from a car accident, you know what they died from, this here is unknown,” Ron said.

Ron was asked if the charges would mean justice for his brother, who had been living on the streets of Berwick before his death on Oct. 23, 2013, in a fire at a Commercial Street bus shelter.

“He’d be glad of the outcome, I think,” Ron answered. “Knowing that whoever did this to him will be held accountable for it.”

As spokesman for the family, Ron talked about the importance of patience over the course of the investigation. 

“It shows that the RCMP did their homework and that they had enough evidence,” he said after hearing the charges, but added that patience will still be necessary.

“It’s still a long road now before we actually find out what happened,” he pointed out. “For the safety of the court case that they’ve got against them, we have to keep calm.”

Ron said members of the family plan to be present April 28 when Surette and Fredericks are scheduled to make a 9:30 a.m. court appearance in Kentville.

Open Arms’ pastor John Andrew, who’s street ministry had provided services to Harley, cautioned that the judicial process  is “going to be a long, painful journey.”

However, the charges are an important step.

“I think a lot of people on the periphery of this felt it probably was a malicious act and it seems tonight that we have the answer to that,” Andrew said. “(First degree murder is) a bold charge.”

Healing for the family will be part of the process.

“To us this is a story that has large implications,” Andrew said. “For them, this was about a brother who was mentally ill and they lost somebody that they really did care about.”

Berwick’s reaction

Mayor Don Clarke said people in his town were grateful to have some news. 

“The majority of the people in town have shown remarkable patience, they knew that this was taking time,” Clarke said.

“We’re glad that we have results.”

Click here for more reaction from area residents.

Clarke said he expected residents would be following the court proceedings.

 “People will watch closely and I have confidence in the judicial system that the right thing would happen,” he said.

While the reaction to Harley’s death has had many expressing sadness, not all were happy to have the man living on the streets.

 “It was a learning experience. Not everybody was happy with Harley’s presence,” Clarke said. “But, I think over time, the town learned a lot.”

Community meetings in the aftermath of the October fire have been “cathartic,” the mayor said.

 “There may be some positives from this, I think we do have a better understanding of the homeless situation.”

Discussing the situation might not help, Andrew said.

“I’m not a big fan of talk,” he commented. “(Open Arms’) initiatives will be action-oriented, they will be initiatives that will help people find tangible solutions.”

However, he did say discussion around Harley’s death has been “transformative.”

 “I think the discussion that has happened has some value,” Andrew said.

“Harley did have opportunities to have places to live and didn’t want those things. Sometimes, the issue of Harley as a difficult person to deal with kind of gets misplaced. Some of the discussion happens around housing and it happens around bullying. I don’t think this was any one of those things.

“I’d like to think, in this community, that this was a rare kind of thing.” 

Click here for full coverage of Lawrence's story.


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Recent comments

  • T sampson
    April 27, 2014 - 07:18

    For anyone whose life has been touched by a family member or friend with a mental illness, this event has been frightening, heartbreaking, sickening. The lack of understanding and empathy for those who don't fit in, the fear of them, is something we as a society and as individuals need to work on and change. EVERYBODY can be only one step away from circumstances that leave you mentally broken or homeless. Live and let live, learn what is a real threat to your safety and what is only a perception founded on ignorance. If nothing else, thiink 'what if that was me or my child/husband/uncle/brother (or wife/aunt/sister)'.

  • Judy Kavalak
    April 26, 2014 - 16:10

    Congratulations to all Law Enforcement agencies involved in this investigation. Such a senseless tragedy and now at least Mr. Lawrence's family can have some closure. Job well done.