Man is sentenced to life without parole for slaying of his musician girlfriend |

Man is sentenced to life without parole for slaying of his musician girlfriend

Staff and wire reports

A Reno man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for the killing of his girlfriend, a singer and musician who played in the Lake Tahoe area.

Denver Dean Pullin, 44, was given an additional eight to 20 years in prison for the use of a deadly weapon in the murder of Laurie Jean “L.J.” Lawrence on Sept. 2, 2006.

Lawrence was found with more than 40 bruises on her body and three gunshot wounds to her head, Deputy District Attorney Bruce Hahn said at Friday’s sentencing.

Defense lawyer Maizie Pusich said Pullin was living in Lawrence’s house. She said he was hysterical and possibly suicidal when he called his daughter the morning after the shooting.

She said Pullin was a recovering alcoholic who had been drinking that night and may have blacked out.

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Pullin pleaded no contest to the charges in July, after his trial had already begun.

He was sentenced Friday by Washoe District Judge Jerry Polaha, who imposed the 20-year enhancement for use of deadly weapon instead of the doubling of the sentence previously required under state law.

A new law passed by the Legislature that took effect July 1 allows judges to impose enhancements of one to 20 years, and Polaha applied it retroactively in Pullin’s case.

During the sentencing testimony a song Lawrence wrote and recorded — “When Charlie Comes Home” — was played in the courtroom before the judge made his decision.

Polaha used the song and Pullin’s stone-faced expression at the time it was played as a factor in the life without parole sentence, those in the courtroom said.

The crowd of about 20 who gathered at the sentencing let out a cheer when the judge made the announcement, friends of Lawrence told the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

Lawrence was the bass guitarist for Tahoe’s Cool Black Kettle. Band founder and leader Jesse Kalin said the decision has brought the tragedy to end but that Lawrence’s memory will live forever.

“This is the final chapter of what happened to L.J. It’s been hard for both his family and her family and friends. But we don’t want her to be remembered by this day. We want her to be remembered by her life and what she did,” Kalin said. “She brought joy and happiness and love to everyone who knew her and heard her play.”

— Information compiled from the Reno Gazette-Journal, through the Associated Press, and Tahoe Daily Tribune Web Editor Jeff Munson.

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