UPDATE, APRIL 26, 5:30 P.M.: The Board of Parole Hearings, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations today denied parole for Lawrence Rayburn Cowell.
He will be eligible for his next parole hearing in 2016.
The board heard opposition to the 62-year-old's parole on double 25 years to life prison sentences from Orange County deputy district attorney Matt Murphy and Gary and Collene Campbell, the parents of Scott Campbell, 27, who Cowell and an accomplice murdered and tossed out of plane near Catalina Island in 1982.
ORIGINAL POST, APRIL 25, 4:15 P.M.: When Lawrence Rayburn Cowell was out on bail for killing a car passenger in 1982 by driving drunk and crashing, he killed a friend for money by tossing the man out of an airplane and into the sea near Catalina Island.
And when the Anaheim resident was out of bail in 1983 for murdering his friend, Cowell beat his father. When Cowell's mother tried to stop him, he bit off a chunk of her finger.
Now 62, serving double 25 years to life prison sentences and about to go before the state parole board for possible release, Cowell is facing an all-out press to remain where he is: behind bars.
Cowell, who is currently being held at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe, is scheduled to appear Tuesday before the Board of Parole Hearings, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations. There he will also face Gary and Collene Campbell, the parents of the man Cowell tossed out of the plane, and Matt Murphy, senior homicide deputy district attorney. They will urge the panel to keep Cowell where he is now.
On Jan. 26, 1990, Cowell was sentenced to two concurrent terms of 25 years to life in state prison for the murder of 27-year-old Scott Campbell. Cowell invited Campbell to join him for a flight lesson on a small plane. Once in the air, a hitman posing as a flight instructor beat and strangled Campbell, whose face was smashed by Cowell and the stranger before the victim was tossed into the ocean.
“Cowell callously lured his trusting friend into a trap to gain a few bucks and brutally murdered him,” District Attorney Tony Rackuckas says in a statement (presented in full below). “By throwing Scott Campbell out of an airplane and into the ocean, he denied the chance for Collene and Gary to properly bury their son and visit a grave.”
The DA continued, “Instead of accepting responsibility for what he did and showing remorse, Cowell has continued to lie, shift the blame to others, and assault innocent people each time he was briefly set free. He poses great danger to the community and should never be allowed to be free.”
At the time of his arrest, Cowell was dismantling Campbell's Pantera automobile in hopes of selling off the parts.
April 25, 2011
ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY TO OPPOSE PAROLE OF MAN WHO BRUTALLY MURDERED LIFELONG FRIEND FOR MONEY AND THREW VICTIM'S BODY OUT OF A PLANE IN 1982
SANTA ANA – Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) Tony Rackauckas is opposing the parole of a man with a history of violent crimes who brutally murdered his lifelong friend for money and threw him out of a plane after deliberately smashing the victim's face so sharks would eat the body. Lawrence Rayburn Cowell, 62, Anaheim, is currently being held at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe, California. Cowell was sentenced Jan. 26, 1990, to two concurrent terms of 25 years to life in state prison. He is scheduled for a parole hearing tomorrow, Tuesday, April 26, 2011, at the prison before the Board of Parole Hearings, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations.
Orange County Senior Homicide Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy will appear with Collene and Gary Campbell, parents of 27-year-old murder victim Scott Campbell, to defend public safety and advocate for justice.
“Cowell callously lured his trusting friend into a trap to gain a few bucks and brutally murdered him. By throwing Scott Campbell out of an airplane and into the ocean, he denied the chance for Collene and Gary to properly bury their son and visit a grave,” stated District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. “Instead of accepting responsibility for what he did and showing remorse, Cowell has continued to lie, shift the blame to others, and assault innocent people each time he was briefly set free. He poses great danger to the community and should never be allowed to be free.”
Murder of Scott Campbell
On April 17, 1982, Cowell, then-29 years old, and co-defendant Donald P. DiMascio, then-32 years old, conspired to murder Cowell's lifelong friend, Scott Campbell for money. While out of custody on bail for a separate crime, Cowell rented an airplane and hired ex-convict DiMascio to murder Scott Campbell.
Cowell lured Scott Campbell onboard under the pretense of completing his in-flight training to become a pilot and telling the victim that DiMascio was his flight instructor. Once onboard, DiMascio assaulted and strangled Scott Campbell to death while Cowell piloted the plane. Cowell and DiMascio smashed the victim's face before throwing it from the airplane near Catalina Island to ensure the body would never be recovered.
Later that day, Scott Campbell's parent's reported their son missing to the Anaheim Police Department (APD). Upon further investigation by police, Cowell was arrested after being found in possession of Scott Campbell's Pantera Sports car, which he was stripping and selling the parts.
On Dec. 9, 1985, a jury convicted Cowell of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery of Scott Campbell, and sentencing enhancements. He was sentenced to two concurrent terms of 25 years to life in state prison and an additional six years for the sentencing enhancements. In 1988, the Court of Appeal overturned his conviction on the grounds that evidence had been improperly admitted and ordered a new trial.
On Dec. 20, 1989, a new jury convicted Cowell on all counts and sentencing enhancement allegations. On Jan. 26, 1990, he was again sentenced to two concurrent terms of 25 years to life in state prison with an additional six years for the sentencing enhancements.
Cowell's History of Violent Crimes
Cowell's lengthy criminal history and recidivism while out of custody proves he is a danger to the community. In July 1980, Cowell drove under the influence of alcohol and crashed his car, killing his passenger, Robert Leon Ferguson. Cowell was out of custody on bail while awaiting trial for killing Ferguson when he murdered Scott Campbell. In August 1982, Cowell was convicted by a jury of vehicular manslaughter for killing Ferguson and sentenced to 180 days in jail and probation.
In 1983, Cowell was arrested for Scott Campbell's murder, and contrary to the California Constitution, he was granted bail again while awaiting the trial. While out on bail in 1984, Cowell assaulted his father, Eugene Cowell, and bit off a significant portion of his mother's finger when she tried to intervene. Despite the recommendation of the Orange County Probation Department and OCDA that Cowell should be taken into custody as a result of this violence, the Court allowed Cowell to remain free while awaiting trial for Scott Campbell's murder.
In 1988, following the overturned conviction by the Court of Appeal, Cowell was ordered a new trial for the murder of Scott Campbell and was again out of custody after an appeal bond, despite being a defendant in a capital murder case.
On June 10, 1989, Cowell crashed into another boat while under the influence of alcohol and driving a powerboat at high-rates of speed on the Colorado River. An occupant on the other boat suffered a broken elbow. Cowell was contacted at the scene by police and had a blood alcohol level of .12 percent hours after the crash. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and three counts of endangerment.
In the 2011 parole opposition letter, the People argued that “his history of violent crimes shows that he is violent, manipulative, egocentric, and will continue to present an unreasonable risk of harm to innocent people until the day he dies. This inmate's behavior, while benefiting from every conceivable advantage in life, has made a mockery of the criminal justice system. It is our sincere hope he never be allowed hurt anyone else, and our office humbly requests the longest denial possible.”
Lack of Remorse and Rehabilitation
Cowell has continued to lie about his involvement in Campbell's murder and continually attempts to shift the blame onto the victim. Despite two juries, two judges, and the Court of Appeal affirming the facts presented by the People and the verdicts, he continues to claim that the crime was an unplanned and tragic accident committed in self-defense by his co-defendant DiMascio after the victim pulled a gun. The physical evidence presented at trial and admissions made by Cowell and DiMascio contradict this claim. Cowell has continued to show no remorse for his crimes. He has hurt or killed someone each time he has been released from custody.
“It should be apparent to any logical and rational thinking person, that nothing will help rehabilitate this killer. Hopefully more people will not need to undergo brutal suffering to make this position clear. Lawrence Cowell has no remorse for his actions and continues to make a mockery of our justice system. We urge that Lawrence Rayburn Cowell never be given parole and that he remains in prison for the rest of his life,” wrote Collene and Gary Campbell in a letter opposing parole.