Appeals court upholds conviction in '09 slayings of woman, son

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Ryan T. Patterson

Of course he was relieved, Bruce Orman said Tuesday, that a Missouri appeals court upheld the conviction of the man who murdered his son. But that should not be misconstrued into the incorrect notion that he believes justice has been served in the brutal shootings of Orman's pregnant ex-wife and their teenage son.

A three-judge panel with the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals on Tuesday voted to affirm the 2009 conviction of Ryan T. Patterson, who was found guilty of murdering Jamie Orman, her unborn son and 15-year-old Derrick Orman. Patterson was convicted by a Pemiscot County jury of three counts of first-degree murder, which took place in the early morning hours of Oct. 27, 2009.

Jurors agreed with Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle's charge that Patterson shot the Ormans in a botched murder-for-hire plot to get as much as $400,000 in insurance money. But the jury did not agree with Swingle as to what the punishment should be in the capital murder case, setting aside the death penalty in the capital case in favor of three life sentences.

Derrick Orman and his mother Jamie Orman

Orman, who was Derrick's custodial parent, however, wanted to watch the man die. So, while relieved, Orman didn't celebrate.

"It's definitely good news," Orman said of the court's ruling. "But it's nowhere near what I wanted. Or what he should have got. I try to be contented that he'll always be looking through bars."

But Orman still thinks about the senselessness of it all. The stupidity of it all. He tries not to dwell on it, for the sake of his other two boys, but it's hard to stop. The anger that grows, he said, will only be eased by one thing.

"That anger will never end until he's dead," Orman said. "Until he dies of natural causes or steps on the wrong toes in prison, the anger for me will never end. It can't."

It's been almost three years to the day that Patterson's plan went awry. Three years since Patterson invaded the Cape Girardeau home of Orman's ex-wife as the sun was coming up. Jamie Orman was seven months pregnant, carrying the son of her boyfriend John Lawrence. That's who Patterson, according to testimony from his murder trial, thought was home and that's who he had come to kill.

Patterson was involved with Lawrence's ex-wife, Michelle Lawrence, who authorities say came up with the idea to kill her estranged husband for insurance money.

But when Patterson crept into the home, John Lawrence wasn't home. He was working an overnight shift.

But three children were there -- the three sons of Bruce and Jamie Orman. When Patterson was surprised by Derrick who had been asleep downstairs, Patterson shot the boy. The sound woke up Orman's other sons, Travis and Jacob. The boys testified they heard Derrick yell "No!" Later, they heard several other shots that killed their mother and their unborn half-brother.

Michelle Lawrence was sentenced to 15 years for conspiracy to murder. A man named Samuel Hughes, thought by some to be the real trigger man, got 20 years in prison for being a lookout.

Swingle on Tuesday called it a "really horrible" and "cold-blooded" crime.

"But I think we were really cautious in the way that we tried it," he said. "Appeals like these are largely routine."

Patterson's appeals lawyer, Jennifer Ann Wideman, declined to comment on the record. The appeal was based on the suppression of a confession Patterson made. Patterson has another 15 days to ask for another hearing. Historically, less than 10 percent of appeals are transferred to the Missouri Supreme Court, making Tuesday's decision most likely the final one.

For Bruce Orman, it's little consolation that Patterson most likely will be in prison for the rest of his life.

"His life," Orman said. "He's alive. The man who took my first-born son. He took my boys' big brother. You can never get over it. You can't forget and you certainly can't forgive."


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