Harveys musician was allegedly murdered: L.J. Lawrence played bass in Tahoe band Cool Black Kettle | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Harveys musician was allegedly murdered: L.J. Lawrence played bass in Tahoe band Cool Black Kettle

Elaine Goodman
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Laurie Jean "L.J." Lawrence, the bass player for the band Cool Black Kettle, was found dead by police at her home in Reno on Saturday.

The female bass player of the band Cool Black Kettle, which plays every weekend on the Tahoe Live stage at Harveys Resort Casino, is dead in what police are calling a murder.

Laurie Jean “L.J.” Lawrence, 42, was found dead by police on Saturday at her home on West 11th Street in Reno at about 5:15 a.m. Authorities said she died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Her live-in boyfriend, 44-year-old Denver Dean Pullin, was arrested on suspicion of murder with a deadly weapon in Lawrence’s death, Reno police said. Pullin was booked into Washoe County Jail.

On Sunday, police said they did not know what sparked the alleged slaying.

“He didn’t talk, so we’re not overly sure,” said Reno police detective Ron Chalmers.

Chalmers said Lawrence was shot with a handgun that apparently was kept at the home. A distraught Pullin called family members following the shooting, telling one family member that he had killed his girlfriend, Chalmers said.

Jesse Kalin, Cool Black Kettle’s band leader, had said goodbye to Lawrence about 1:15 a.m. Saturday, after the band finished playing on the stage just outside the Hard Rock Cafe. Kalin said Lawrence didn’t show any signs that she might be having trouble. As far as Kalin knows, Pullin was not with her at the casino.

“I kissed her goodbye,” he said Saturday night. “The last thing I said was ‘drive safe.'”

The band did not play Saturday night, Kalin said, because he could not get word out quickly enough to fellow band members of Lawrence’s death. They planned to perform as scheduled on Sunday.

A rose was placed on the microphone stand used by Lawrence at Tahoe Live.

“I’m just numb tonight,” Kalin said Saturday. “This is absolutely devastating.”

Kalin said he and Lawrence had been friends for the past four years, during which time she played off and on with the band.

The two often argued over human nature – whether people are inherently good or bad.

“L.J. always believed people were good,” Kalin said.

But Kalin and Lawrence had decided that last week would be her last with the band.

Lawrence had battled with health problems over the past few years, including thyroid cancer and injuries from a stage accident and a car crash, Kalin said. Playing three nights a week along with the commute from Reno had become too much for her to handle.

Kalin said that Lawrence and Pullin had been seeing each other for about a year. But Lawrence had known the Pullin family for years, at one time playing in a band with Pullin’s parents, according to Kalin.

Kalin said Lawrence leaves behind her parents in Reno and a brother.

Lawrence, a 20-year full-time musician, sang and wrote songs in addition to playing bass. She had fronted many groups, including Sierra Blues Tribe and the X-Factor, and hosted the Blues Jam at the old Hacienda in Reno. Along with friend Don Evans, she released a CD entitled “Heart of the Tribe.”

A celebration of life memorial will be held at 9 p.m. Thursday at Cabo Wabo Cantina inside Harveys. Family and friends are invited.

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call Reno detectives at (775) 334-2115. Tips may also be left anonymously by calling Secret Witness at (775) 322-4900.

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