U.S. Marshals arrest former Utah corrections officer who nearly 10 years ago skipped sentencing on sex assault charge

William F. Lawrence was arrested while eating lunch at a McDonald’s in Hawaii.

(Photo courtesy of US Marshals Service) William F. Lawrence was arrested Monday, Nov. 27, 2017

A former Utah corrections officer — who in 2006 used his badge to intimidate a woman into performing sex acts with him — is back in custody after nearly 10 years on the run.

U.S. Marshals arrested William F. Lawrence, 41, on Monday at a McDonald’s restaurant in Kauai, Hawaii, according to a news release from the U.S. Marshals Service.

In 2007, Lawrence pleaded guilty to forcible sexual abuse, but fled before his sentencing date. Charging documents say Lawrence showed his badge to a woman the previous year to intimidate her into performing the sex acts.

West Jordan police Detective J.C. Holt said Tuesday that Lawrence and the victim had exchanged information after the woman placed an ad for some kind of escort service on Craigslist. The woman was about two years younger than Lawrence and was in her late 20s at the time.

On April 16, 2006, Lawrence had the woman come to his West Jordan apartment and handcuffed her to his bed against her will, court documents state. He threatened to take the woman to jail and call child protection authorities if she didn’t provide him with sexual favors, charges state.

Lawrence was originally charged with forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony, but later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of forcible sexual abuse, a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

(Photo courtesy of US Marshals Service) William F. Lawrence

Lawrence had been hired at the Utah Department of Corrections in Draper on June 27, 2005, and was fired April 21, 2006 — one day after the West Jordan Police Department informed the prison of his arrest, according to a Corrections spokesman at the time.

Court records show that once Lawrence had pleaded guilty, he was ordered to get a psychosexual evaluation before his sentencing hearing, scheduled for early 2008, but he never showed up for the hearing.

A $150,000 arrest warrant was issued for Lawrence on April 7, 2008, but police couldn’t find him.

The U.S. Marshals Service began working the case in 2010, the news release said, and while revisiting cold cases in October of this year, marshals in Utah’s district discovered that Lawrence had created a fake identity and was living in Hawaii.

Supervisory Deputy United States Marshal Derryl Spencer said the journey Lawrence took after he skipped his sentencing wasn’t immediately clear, but law enforcement officers recently learned Lawrence had been using the alias John Phillips. After that, it wasn’t hard to track him down, Spencer said.

Lawrence had a girlfriend in Hawaii, and his daughter — who was born and raised in Utah until Lawrence disappeared — was also in Hawaii. Spencer said officers believe Lawrence had been working construction in the area.

On Sunday, two marshals flew to Kauai and the next day arrested Lawrence without incident while he was having lunch.

“As a former law enforcement officer, Lawrence knew the strategies used to track down fugitives,” Spencer said in the release. “He was able to elude law enforcement for years — until now.”

Spencer said now that Lawrence has been arrested, the case will be turned back over to West Jordan police, who will coordinate Lawrence’s extradition back to Utah.

Holt said he does not have a timeline on when Lawrence will return to Utah, noting that the judicial process that may take some time, but confirmed that West Jordan officers are leading extradition efforts.