Monday, July 26, 1999

Murder suspect to be
transferred to state hospital

By Debra Barayuga


A Waialua man suspected in the murder of vacuum cleaner salesman Melchor Tabag will be temporarily transferred to the Hawaii State Hospital so examiners can question him.

Michael Robert Lawrence, 23, charged with killing Tabag with a hammer and meat saw, is being held at the Oahu Community Correctional Center under suicide watch.

Circuit Court Judge Virginia Crandall granted the state's request to give examiners better access to Lawrence. The court appointed three examiners to determine Lawrence's fitness to proceed with trial, but he has been reluctant to speak to them, said deputy prosecutor Kevin Takata.

At the hospital, examiners will not only have better access, but will also be able to monitor observations by the nursing staff and doctors, Takata said. Deputy public defender William Jameson, who represents Lawrence, did not object to the request.

Tabag was last seen at Lawrence's Waialua home on March 27.

Lawrence's mother testified before a grand jury that a man she later learned was Tabag was demonstrating Kirby products in her son's bedroom that day. She later saw Tabag lying on the floor of her laundry room with blood on his forehead. Her son, who was holding a hammer, told her the man tripped and fell. She said she locked herself in a bedroom in fear and never saw Tabag after that.

Tabag's body has not been found.

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