Mary Vincent, 15, was thrown off a 30-foot cliff at Interstate 5 in Del Puerto Canyon on September 29, 1978. Her hands were cut off by Lawrence Bernard Singleton, 50, who used to be a merchant seaman in the Navy.
But first, I’d like to tell you a little about Lawrence Singleton. This is what led to this horrible crime.
It was said that Lawrence had a terrible temper and didn’t like women. He and his second wife just got a divorce. He didn’t get along well with his teenage daughter because they had a fight earlier that year and never made up.
Before this, Lawrence had been found guilty of helping a minor become delinquent. Besides that, he had a history of drug abuse.
Mary Vincent left her home in Las Vegas in early September 1978 and never came back. The divorce between her parents was a mess, and Mary, unlike her six siblings, couldn’t handle the chaos at home.
She briefly lived on the streets before hitchhiking to California to stay with her grandfather. At some point, she missed her home and chose to hitchhike back to Las Vegas.
She pulled over to the side of the road, where there were other people also trying to get rides. All of them held up vague signs that said where they wanted to go.
Mary was pointing south to show her where she needed to go. In a van, an old man stopped and offered to take Mary somewhere, even though it was not in his way. That was the first bad sign.
His van was empty and could have fit all the hitchhikers who were waiting there, but he turned them down. The second red flag was that.
Due to his fear of being robbed, he only agreed to take one person, and it had to be a woman. The third warning sign was that.
Everyone else on the hitch tried to talk Mary out of going with him. Mary, who was really sad and alone, told herself that she couldn’t walk around the streets any longer.
She then looked at him very carefully. He smiled and looked like he was in his fifties. He told her he had a daughter about the same age as her, and Mary didn’t mind that he was a family man.
No matter what the hitchhikers said, she got into his van and they were on their way. She was completely worn out and sleepy. She knew it wasn’t a good idea to fall asleep, but she couldn’t help herself.
After some time, she woke up and saw that they weren’t going south. The fourth warning sign was this.
She quickly asked Lawrence about it, and he said he was sorry. He said it was his fault because his eyesight was getting worse.
It was getting too hot for him to hold it in any longer, so he said he would turn his van around but first he wanted to stop for a while. It was beginning to get dark now that the sun was going down.
He told Mary to get out of the van and stretch her legs while he went to the bathroom. This is when Mary’s mind went off. She looked around and saw that they were stopped on the side of the road by themselves.
She looked at him once more. He looked unhealthy and was a bit overweight. He was an old man who was getting close to sixty years old. She thought that he might not be able to catch her if she booked it and ran away from him.
She realized her shoelaces were loose as she got out of the van. She was going to get out of the van, tie her shoelaces, and walk away.
But she got hit in the head with a sledgehammer while she was tying her shoelaces. She passed out right away.
That morning, she woke up naked and tied down in the back of Lawrence’s van. There were many times he raped her all night and early in the morning.
She wailed and begged. She told her not to tell anyone and to leave her alone. He didn’t listen to her.
He got her out of the van in the morning. She was still tied up, naked, and bleeding. Then he pulled out a hatchet and hit her on the left arm with it. It felt like she was going to fall back to the grass.
When we are falling, our first instinct is to grab something to keep from falling. Even though she grabbed his arm, she kept falling. It seemed to happen very slowly, she said. She didn’t understand.
A lot of blood was coming out of her left arm, which had been cut off at the elbow, when she hit the ground. She was in terrible pain and thought her hand was on fire. Then Lawrence swung at her right elbow and cut it off too.
She was bleeding when she saw that he was trying to flick off her left hand, which was still close to his arm.
After that, he pulled her into the woods. Not to lose any more blood, she stayed still. She didn’t scream because she thought it would make him hurt her even more.
After that, he threw her off a 30 foot cliff and left her to die! This was the way he ki*lled her.
When asked about it later, he said that he cut off her arms to get rid of her fingerprints. This person clearly had no idea what dental records were. I have no idea what he was talking about because even Mary’s family would have been able to recognize her.
Four of Mary’s ribs were broken when she fell from 30 feet up. She was in a lot of pain and losing a lot of blood. All she could think about was, “What if he hasn’t driven off?” “What if he comes back to ki*ll me?”
Her feelings of being very sleepy and dizzy then began. That must have been because she lost blood. A voice told her, “Hey, you can’t go to sleep, you can’t go to sleep!” as she tried to fall asleep.
She was afraid that he would k*ill someone else if she fell asleep and died, and she didn’t want that to happen. That’s when she got down on her knees and pushed both elbows into the mud.
In this 30-second video, Mary Vincent talks about how she got up the cliff:
That’s what she said she did to stop the blood flow. She was only 15 years old, but she was very smart. She then crawled up the whole cliff. Even though her broken ribs hurt, she didn’t give up.
It was night again when she got to the top. She worked hard all day to get to the top.
She walked down the main street to find someone who could help her. So the blood wouldn’t come out, she kept her arms up the whole time. This was the same empty spot where Lawrence had parked his van.
She heard the sound of cars from far away. Through that direction, she walked for three miles. It was still morning, so she could only move very slowly.
A red convertible with the top down was the first car she saw. It had two men in it. People sped up even though she yelled for them to stop and help her.
She was so sad, but she told them she didn’t blame them because she looked like a scene from a horror movie—naked, with blood all over her body.
After a while, a nice old truck showed up. They were on their honeymoon and got lost. When they saw her, they stopped right away.
They helped her get into the truck and ran to the closest phone booth. Remember that this happened in 1978, when cell phones weren’t very common.
Paramedics were called by the honeymooners, and one was sent right away to take Mary to the hospital.
For the couple, this would have been a very bad honeymoon experience.
The doctors at the hospital didn’t understand how Mary was still alive since she had lost more than half of her blood and the blood that was left was very toxic.
Then Mary told the police a lot of information about Lawrence Singleton. The police released a composite sketch of the man because the description was so clear.
The sketch was seen by Lawrence’s neighbor, who then called the police. After that, Lawrence was brought in to be questioned.
It was rude of Lawrence to deny everything and say that Mary wasn’t a hitchhiker but a prostitute. He told her that if his DNA was found on her, it was because she was a prostitute and he paid her $10.
If she was a prostitute like he said, he could have just paid her and left her alone, so the police asked why she was acting this way. They wouldn’t be in the hospital right now.
Lawrence then told her that Mary wasn’t the only prostitute in the van; he was there with a guy friend as well. He said he passed out and his friend, a guy, must have decided to hurt Mary and cut off her hands.
This guy just blurted out “Larry” when asked who his guy friend was. The police were smart enough to see through his lies and arrested him. He was charged with cutting up Mary Vincent, taking her, and assaulting her.
Mary saw Lawrence again in court. He was only 10 feet away from her when she was testifying, and she was scared. She was still a teenager. She had now got fake arms.
After her testimony, she had to walk by him, and he told her in a whisper:
“I’ll finish this job, if it takes me the rest of my life”
Lawrence was found guilty of kidnapping, rape, mayhem (muti*lation), attempted murd*er, and s*ex crime based on Mary’s strong testimony and the other evidence.
With all of these things added together, the longest sentence he could get in California was 14 years. Only 14 years! Even having drugs on you gets you more years than that.
The judge in charge said:
“If I had the power, I would send him to prison for the rest of his natural life”.
The worst thing about this was that he got out of jail after only 8 years! He got out of jail six years early! He got less time because he was good and worked as a teaching assistant in a prison classroom.
This made a lot of people very angry. When California’s prison got too full, it seems like a quiet law was passed without telling anyone.
For every day that prisoners work in prison, one day of their sentence is cut short. This is what the law was mostly about.
This made a lot of people angry. If there were too many people in prison, drug offenders might get out before sex offenders. It didn’t make sense.
A lot of protests, controversies, and political issues happened while he was out on parole. That’s not what I’m going to talk about, but if you want to, you can listen to it HERE while I summarize this true-crime podcast episode.
In Florida on February 19, 1997, Lawrence Singleton’s scared neighbor called 911. From the window of his house, she said she saw him attack a woman.
When the police got there right away, they found Roxanne Hayes already dead. She had three kids by herself and worked as a prostitute to make money for them. Several sta*b wounds were made in her upper body.
Lawrence’s clothes were covered in blood when he was found. He tried to defend himself again. He said that he was just an old man who got lost because he might have Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Mary came back to say more bad things about him. She told the judge that what he did to her turned her whole life upside down. She said that she had been trying to get her life back together ever since he went to prison.
She said that since he got out on parole, all she could hear were the words he whispered to her:
“I’ll finish this job, if it takes me the rest of my life”
She said she started to lose her mind. She said she couldn’t concentrate on anything, she couldn’t keep a job, and her life was ruined. He’s not a crazy old man, and he’s going to keep hurting people, so she begged the judge to do something.
In the end, the judge put him to de*ath in 2001. I agree that this person should be put to de*ath, but there’s bad news. He died of cancer in jail the same year he was put to de*ath.
Following this, there was a lot of anger, which led to laws. Then, California passed a “Singleton bill” that makes it illegal to release prisoners early if they have been convicted of a crime involving torture. The maximum sentence is now 25 years to life in prison.
In a civil case against Lawrence Singleton, Mary Vincent won and was given $2.56 million. She couldn’t get even a small amount, though, because he wasn’t working. He wasn’t feeling well. He was old and had only $200 saved.
Only about $6,000 was given to her by the California victim fund.
She said that she didn’t feel better when Lawrence died. She wasn’t happy because she knew there were more bad people like him in the world.
Mary became an artist in the end. She got married and now has two sons. She changed places and now lives in Orange County. She set up the Mary Vincent Foundation to help people who have been hurt by terrible crimes.