It's Christmas day in North Carolina 1929. Fannie Lawson had just finished baking a cake for her family and was relaxing on the porch, her teenage daughter Marie (age 17), two young boys James (age 4) and Raymond (age 2) are in the house with baby Mary-Lou (4 months) in her crib. The other children Carrie (age 12) and Maybell (age 7) are walking to visit near by family, and Arthur (age 16) is out on an errand for his father.
Charlie is standing by the Tobacco shead as his daughters Maybell and Carrie approch on route visit their aunt and uncle, as they got closer Lawson shot them both with a 12-gauge shot gun before bludgeoning them to ensure they were dead. He then moved back to the house and gunned down Fannie as she sat on the porch, on hearing the shots Marie screamed and told the two young boys to hide, but Lawson moved into the house shooting her and both the boys before killing baby Mary Lou. He then moved to the woods where he turned the gun on himself hours later, leaving Arthur as the only survivor with no explanation as to why he was spared. The families bodies were all discovered with their arms crossed and rocks under their head, and Charlie's body was found in the woods beside letters to his parents.
In the aftermath of this heinous crime, the search for a motive cultivated a number of theories. Weeks before the murders Charlie had taken the whole family into town, bought them all new clothes and insisted they pose for a family portrait (above). This led some to believe the murders were premeditated.
Some months prior Charlie had sustained a head injury; which many theorised had somehow changed his mental state but nothing was found to support this during the autopsy.
Rumours circulated that Charlie witnessed an organised crime and his family were assasinated to silence them, but these kind of rumors were always around when murders happened at this time due to the rise of organised crime gangs in the 1920s.
Another theory later surfaced with the publication of the book White Christmas, Bloody Christmas in 1990. The book made claims of an incestuous relationship between Charlie and his oldest daughter Marie. The author received a phone call from Stella Lawson, a relative, stating Fannie Lawson had confessed to family members that she was concerned about Charlie and Marie's relationship. The same author later released another book in 2006, The Meaning of our Tears, which claimed that Marie had confided in close friend Ella May that she was pregnant with her fathers baby and both her parents knew about this.