Adam Lawson Jr. was arrested April 2 in Liles’ slaying and appeared in court at a hearing attended by Liles’ enraged family members, according to First Coast News.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Lawson Allegedly Told a Woman He Murdered Liles After Burglarizing Her Home
According to First Coast News, police unraveled the case after receiving a tip that Lawson had told a woman he murdered Liles while burgling her Panama Park, Florida home.
Liles’ husband, Mike, found her dead inside their residence, according to Action News Jax.
The television station reported that Liles was lying dead on the kitchen floor and quoted her husband as saying, “There was blood everywhere and the weapon that killed her was laying on the floor.” What that weapon was has not been disclosed.
WESH.com reported that, according to one of Liles’ daughters, Mike Liles called 911 after finding his wife and was seen sobbing at the scene. “Police tape all around, this street was blocked of completely, crime scene units everywhere, detectives, unmarked cars and my dad sobbing,” the daughter said, according to the television station.
Liles’ car was missing, as were other items not revealed. That led her husband to declare to Jacksonville.com that the murder stemmed from a robbery. Police said Liles had “multiple injuries,” the newspaper reported.
There was a bizarre twist to the case: It was not the first time that Liles had been victimized in a home invasion. According to Jacksonville.com, Liles “also had been similarly victimized in a high-profile case in 1993 when she was robbed, beaten and tied up at the same home by a man who said he was looking for yard work.”
That man, Curtis Head, then 44, “became the first person in Florida convicted under the state’s home invasion law” but is still in prison, the newspaper reported.
2. Liles’ family Expressed Great Anger at Lawson, Saying He ‘Wrecked’ Their Lives
According to News4Jax, Liles’ daughter had strong words for the 24-year-old suspect.
“He went and preyed on a small little lady, just taking care of her house, for a couple TVs. He took took this man’s best friend, and our mother,” said Rachel Sirmans, Liles’ eldest child, to News4Jax. “He wrecked our lives.”
The Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff’s Department said that Liles’ car was stolen and, according to the television station, police have surveillance video of the stolen car going into a mobile home park.
“The stolen vehicle that was taken during the murder of Deborah Liles has been recovered …in the 3800 block of Notter Avenue off Golfair Boulevard. We are asking anyone in that area who may have observed anyone near the vehicle, or driving to call police. This is an active ongoing investigation,” authorities wrote on Facebook at the time. However, the car was found.
“Anyone who knows anything about this murder is asked to contact the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at 904-630-0500 or email us at JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous and receive a possible reward up to $3,000 contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS,” the Sheriff’s Department said.
The department noted that the above photo of vehicle is similar to Liles’ car but is not the actual vehicle.
3. Liles Was Remembered as a ‘Musical Inspiration’ & ‘Great Teacher’ Whereas Lawson Has a Criminal Record
Lawson is a felon who, according to News4Jax, “has a long list of charges in Polk County, including burglary and larceny, dating back to 2010.”
In contrast, people had nothing but good things to say about Liles, who was a music teacher who touched many people’s lives and left behind a large family.
One friend wrote on Facebook, “Deborah Liles…She was my friend and an amazing person and she will be dearly missed by everyone whose life she ever touched. The music world has lost a truly amazing person and my son and every child at his school will mourn the loss of a great teacher and musical inspiration.”
Another friend who knew Liles wrote on her husband’s Facebook page, “I am an elementary music teacher at Hendricks Ave. who has known your precious bride since she started teaching in 2000. She always had a precious way about her that always brought joy to all of us who knew her! I will never forget one of the last conversations we had about grandchildren, because our 1st will come in June. I had asked what they called her and she said proudly GRANNY! …She truly loves her grand babies and I will always hold that memory of her close to my heart!”
Another friend wrote: “Debbie was not just an awesome music teacher, she was a wonderful friend, a shining witness of God’s love, and a truly good person. My heart is heavy with sadness beyond words.”
4. Liles’ Husband Called the Murderer a ‘Monster’ & Police Have Forensic Evidence in the Case
First Coast News reports that police searched Lawson’s home and recovered “a pair of tennis shoes with what appears to be blood on them.” They’ve sent the shoes for forensic testing to see whose blood is on the shoes, the news site reported.
Liles’ husband, Michael, is a former Safety Consultant/Trainer at Independent Contractor – Industrial Safety Solutions Inc.
He wrote on Facebook:
Just last Sunday, my sweet bride and I were in New York City to see Josh Groban, superb vocalist and now actor in the Broadway production of ‘The Great Comet’ had the amazing opportunity to have his picture taken with the World Famous Music Teacher, Deborah Liles. He thanked her for everything you do (as a music teacher) and was quick to run over when I simply suggested, ‘Mr. Groban! How about a quick picture with an amazing Music Teacher?’ He was kind enough to run back over for the attached picture. This was the beautiful face of my dear wife of 41 years until a monster took her life in our Panama Park home on Thursday morning. It was a dream come true for Debbie and I both. I only wish I could wake up from the nightmare I have been having since Thursday at noon when I discovered someone else’s handiwork. Thank you to Josh Groban for making our last weekend together so special.
Mike Liles told Action News Jax that he was married to his wife for 41 years and met her as children. He told the television station Deborah loved “God, music, family and kids,” and said “we were the real deal.”
5. Liles’ Children Also Spoke Out Shortly After Her Murder
Liles’ daughters have also spoken out publicly after their mother’s death. Liles and her husband have five children, according to WESH.com.
They described her as a good person who was devoted to teaching music to children and obtained grants to purchase violins, reported Jacksonville.com.
According to Liles’ Facebook page, she studied at UNF, Memphis State University, Jacksonville University, Stetson University and Episcopal High School. In 2015, she made the above photo her cover photo.
In 2011, she wrote in one of her few public posts, “I really don’t like facebook or computers. If I really want to talk to you I will lift up my heavy phone and call you as they did in the dark ages. That way I will hear the lovely tone of your voice and know your true emotions……..and that is what is on my mind.”