DOBSON — The ongoing investigation into a July murder continues to bring forth new charges against two suspects.
Matthew Ray Lawson and Candace Leigh Lowe are accused of killing Nathan Atkins. A recent search warrant added four new felonies to the growing list of offenses.
Lawson, 29, of Soldier Lane, Mount Airy, was served an order for arrest this week for two counts of felony larceny, two counts of felony possession of stolen goods, and probation violations.
The felony charges carry a $20,000 bond; the probation charge carries another $2,000 bond. This doesn’t matter at this point as at their first appearance three weeks ago, Judge Spencer Key Jr. stipulated that Lawson and Lowe would be jailed without privilege of bond pending trial because of murder and arson charges, as well as the flight risk.
Candace Leigh Lowe, 31, of Magic Town Lane, Mount Airy, also was served with two counts of felony larceny and two counts of felony possession of stolen property. She received a $20,000 secured bond and an Oct. 30 court date.
Lawson has another court date before then for an unrelated matter. He is due in court Oct. 4 for charges of possession of marijuana (less than half an ounce) and possession of drug paraphernalia.
• According to the N.C. Department of Public Safety, Lawson was caught on a drug charge in April 2012. The conviction came in January 2013 for possession with intent to sell a schedule VI controlled substance. He received probation and a suspended sentence.
• On May 4, 2014, he was arrested for several offenses. In September of that year he was found guilty of felony hit and run as well as several lesser charges such as reckless driving, failing to report an accident, assault on an officer, resisting an officer and two motor vehicle violations. With charges consolidated for judgment, he again got probation and a suspended sentence.
• Lawson had three drug-related charges just before the hit and run, but didn’t get convicted of them until after that case ended. In August 2015 he was convicted of felony possession with intent to sell a schedule VI drug, felony sell/deliver a schedule VI drug, and misdemeanor drug paraphernalia. Despite all the previous convictions in the prior two years, Lawson still received a suspended sentence and probation again.
• Two days after this court date, Lawson was arrested again on Aug. 5, 2015, for a break-in. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor breaking and entering in March 2016.
• Lawson first showed up in arrest reports this year on May 19 for failure to appear in court to face a charge of nonpayment of child support. He was placed under a $1,776 cash bond.
• That same week Lawson reported a number of power tools stolen from his house. A month later on June 16, Lawson and neighbor David Fulk reported a Chevy S10 and a loaded tool box stolen from the residence. Both incidents were listed as still under “further investigation” on the reports.
• On June 12, Lawson was arrested for possession of meth in Horry County in South Carolina. He spent four days in the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Conway, South Carolina, (according to reports from Myrtle Beach authorities released after the alleged Mount Airy murder). He was released on a $1,500 bond.
• On July 23, the day before the house fire, Lawson and Lowe were both featured in The News’ weekly Most Wanted column.
The Surry County Community Corrections office said Lawson was wanted on probation violations. He was on probation after being convicted of felony possession with intent to manufacture/sell/deliver schedule VI controlled substances, breaking and entering, and possessing drug paraphernalia. The corrections office added that Lawson also has numerous outstanding felony warrants.
The corrections office said Lowe failed to appear in court again to face charges of probation violations and had an outstanding order for arrest. She was on probation after being convicted of possessing a schedule II controlled substance and possessing drug paraphernalia.
Firefighters working a house fire on Starr Memory Trail, just north of the Mount Airy city limits, discovered the victim’s body on the morning of July 24.
Sheriff Jimmy Combs said fire and law authorities on the scene were quickly suspicious of the blaze.
“A couple of vehicles weren’t on the premises that the victim’s family thought should have been,” Combs explained. A search led to a car that had been burned in a field and a motorcycle that had been crashed at another location.
Later that night, the Sheriff’s Department had a break in the case, Combs would say the next day. On July 25, an alert was put out for Lawson, advising that he was armed and dangerous.
Not only was Lawson wanted for murder, Combs supplied a lengthy list of outstanding charges against Lawson.
These included three felony counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, felonious possession of stolen goods, felony breaking and entering, two felonious safecracking charges, three counts of felonious larceny of a firearm, failing to appear in court for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, injury to real property, a felony probation violation and a misdemeanor probation violation.
On July 26, Lawson and Lowe drew police attention in South Carolina. Rather than keeping a low profile, Lawson was blaring loud music in Myrtle Beach during peak tourist season.
Lt. Joey Crosby, of the Myrtle Beach Police Department, stated that officers tried to conduct a traffic stop for violating the city’s noise ordinance. As officers approached, the car sped off. The cops later found the car, but the occupants had fled.
On July 27, officers saw a man matching Lawson’s description and chased him down. The female with him was also arrested, but the officers admitted they didn’t realize she was Lowe at the time.
Myrtle Beach charged Lawson with being a fugitive from justice, possession of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession of methamphetamine, possession of a stolen handgun, and unlawful carry of a firearm by a felon.
It took until Aug. 23 for Myrtle Beach to finish its investigations, file its paperwork and then get the transfer papers in order before the suspects could be released into Surry County’s custody.
In some cases, a team would deliver the two suspects to Dobson, but considering the severity of the crimes, the Sheriff’s Office wanted to be there in South Carolina to take custody directly, said Captain Lloyd Terry.
At the end of August, the Sheriff’s Office had added to Lawson’s murder charge with first-degree arson and robbery with a dangerous weapon. The office also changed its stance on Lowe, suggesting she may have had a more active role in the crimes than first believed.
In the newest development in the case, officers executed a search warrant. The captain said he couldn’t divulge what was discovered or where the evidence was found, but this all ties back in to the same victim, Nathan Atkins.
From the continuing work of the investigators the additional evidence has been recovered and new charges have been made as the county continues to build its case.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.