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Killer serving life sentence in Jacksonville teacher's murder

Adam Lawson in state custody after Feb. 21 sentencing in Deborah Liles' slaying

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An ex-convict has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Deborah Liles, a Jacksonville music teacher who was beaten to death inside her family’s Panama Park home, court records show.

Adam Christopher Lawson, Jr., 26, received a life sentence Feb. 21 after pleading guilty to charges of first-degree murder, armed burglary, grand theft auto and possession of a firearm by a felon. 

Corrections records show Lawson was admitted Monday to the Lake Butler Reception and Medical Center, where he’ll remain in custody until he’s assigned to a specific prison facility.

Prosecutors, who had been seeking the death penalty, agreed to spare Lawson’s life as part of a plea agreement that had the backing of Liles’ surviving family.

Liles’ murder was notable because she was the victim of a home invasion decades ago when she was five months pregnant. In that case, she survived and helped send her attacker to prison for life.

Police said Liles, 62, was found dead inside her home March 23, 2017. She had been beaten with a golf club and frying pan. The family’s home was ransacked and her Buick LaCrosse was gone.

Her vehicle was found two days later. It had been abandoned near Notter Avenue and Golfair Boulevard. Surveillance video led police to a mobile home park a few miles from Liles’ home.

Based on surveillance video and a tip from an acquaintance of Lawson, police searched his home. Inside they found evidence linking him to the case, including shoes with traces of blood still on them.

Lawson, who was released from prison in 2016 after serving six years for a burglary conviction, was arrested in April 2017 on murder and a series of other felony charges.