1978 MUTILATION: Family relieved by Singleton's death

Man who died in prison Monday raped Las Vegas teen, cut off her arms


Twenty-three years after her daughter was maimed for life, Lucy Vincent and her family can finally picture a life free from the monster.

The monster was Lawrence Singleton -- a drunken killer who in 1978 raped Vincent's daughter, Mary, and hacked off the Las Vegas teen's arms before leaving her near death in a culvert near Sacramento, Calif.

Singleton died in prison from cancer Monday, leaving the family relieved that the worst part of their seemingly never-ending journey is over.

"He can't hurt anyone else now," Lucy Vincent said from her Las Vegas home. "The man who mutilated my daughter is dead."

At the downtown casino where she deals blackjack, one of her co-workers told her she hopes Singleton is "burning in hell."

She said last week she doesn't have those feelings anymore. She's navigated her way through self-destructive feelings of hatred and now chooses a merciful approach when contemplating the monster's fate.

"May he rest in peace," she said. "Hopefully, God will forgive him for what he did."

The nightmare for the Vincent family started in the fall of 1978. Mary Vincent, now 38 and living in the Pacific Northwest, had run away from home and was hitchhiking through California when she caught a ride with Singleton.

"She'd been running away over and over," Lucy Vincent recalled of her then-rebellious daughter. "She had started ditching school."

Singleton, a retired merchant marine from Sparks, repeatedly raped the girl and cut off both her arms below the elbow with a hatchet. But she survived, and was found the next morning wandering near a roadway and holding her arms in the air to prevent blood loss.

Lucy Vincent, a mother of seven, said that when police told her of the crime it was beyond her comprehension.

"It was not a pretty sight," she said. "I passed out right away. I woke up 24 hours later and I didn't remember."

She and her then-husband, Herbert, traveled to California and began the extensive process of helping their daughter in her attempts to cope with life and her disability. The teen was fitted with prosthetic arms, and within months she was learning how to live with them.

"It was very traumatic but we dealt with it," Lucy Vincent said. "I had to bathe and clean her for a whole year before she could do it herself."

Her ex-husband, she said, would carry a .45-caliber pistol and often contemplated killing Singleton.

"It really hurt him," she said. "I was always telling him, `If you kill that guy, what will happen to your children?' "

But the trauma was really just beginning. The family would watch in horror as Singleton was sentenced to a little more than 14 years in prison for the attack.

He was paroled after serving eight years, leaving Mary Vincent fearful that Singleton would return and kill her.

"She was terrified," Lucy Vincent said. "He used to write our lawyer, threatening her."

Upon his release, Singleton was forced into hiding and he eventually took up residency in Florida.

According to one news account, Mary Vincent sought out refuge in those who could protect her. In 1997, she lived with an accomplished bare-knuckled fighter in a home surrounded by huge dogs called Neapolitan mastiffs.

"I'm not paranoid enough," Mary Vincent told the St. Petersburg Times newspaper in 1997.

Lucy Vincent said seeing Singleton free was hard enough, but the pain was aggravated by the constant media onslaught. "The media went crazy over this," she said.

Every time there was a development, phone calls and visits to the family's home by reporters would start up again. She said that she and her daughter were followed into a public bathroom on one occasion.

"They made tons of money, the newspapers, the television," she said. "She was what they call a victim celebrity. Our kids had to hide (from the media)."

In late February 1997, a reporter called her family's home in the middle of the night. Lucy Vincent said the reporter told her that Singleton, then 69, had stabbed to death a 31-year-old woman who was a mother of three.

"I said `Why are you calling and telling me this?' " she said.

A woman named Roxanne Hayes had been slain in Singleton's Florida home -- a crime that would eventually earn Singleton the death penalty.

"I mourn for her family," Lucy Vincent said.

"To me, he is an animal," she said of Singleton's inability to control himself. "A crazy person."

She said she and her husband divorced and her daughter has struggled through failed relationships as well.

"It has impacted all the children, scarred them," Lucy Vincent said. "My kids, they don't talk about it. You can tell it has impacted them."

She described going through years of hatred and personal struggles until she realized the emotions were getting her nowhere.

"I hated God, I hated everything," she said.

With time, she said, the family's wounds have healed, a process that has been furthered by Singleton's death. As of late last week, Lucy Vincent had yet to talk to her daughter about Singleton's death.

She said she is sure, however, that Mary is as relieved as she is. She said she is especially proud of how her daughter has gone on with her life, serving as a role model for people with disabilities.

"She drives, she bowls, she plays perfect pool," she said of her daughter.

Lucy Vincent said she believes Singleton, wherever he is, has finally had to admit his crimes.

"I hope somehow he will accept in his heart that he really did this," she said. "I hope God will forgive him."

Feb. 21, 1997

Las Vegas teen-ager one of Lawrence Singleton's victims

Mary Vincent goes on to live a full life despite her ordeal.
By Natalie Patton

Lawrence Singleton began his notorious journey on Sept. 30, 1978.

That was when 15-year-old Mary Vincent was picked up by a then 51-year-old Singleton while hitchhiking to see her grandfather in Corona, Calif.

It was the second time she had run away from her Las Vegas home. She was found in a daze and with her forearms chopped off as she wandered along a highway near Modesto, Calif.

Singleton, who was living in Sparks at the time, used five swings of a hatchet to do the damage before leaving her for dead.

A couple of weeks after the rape and mutilation, her older sister, Lucy, shared her rage in an October 1978 interview.

"I wanted to kill the man who did that to my sister," said Lucy, then 18. "I thought he was the lowest, craziest person. I don't know how he could have done that to her and sleep easy."

Lucy shared a room and her secrets with her sister before Mary ran away. After finding out about the crime, Lucy said, "My brother and I wanted to take off and find the guy and kill him. After the guy was caught I felt some peace, but I still cry a lot."

Three months after Mary Vincent was left for dead in the California farm field, families and businesses in Modesto raised $20,000 for medical expenses, an amount that was doubled by Las Vegans. Both parents worked in casinos.

"Without all of this we would have gone under," said Mary's father, Herbert, during a interview in December 1978. "There is no way we could have made it."

Lindsay Wagner, star of the television show "The Bionic Woman," befriended Mary Vincent and helped her family deal with the grief by referring them to a trauma seminar in Portland, Ore., a month after the rape and mutilation.

"It was real tough for me," Mary's mother said at the time. "When Mary came home from the hospital I was the person who had to unwrap her arms, and change her dressing. I was the one who had to look at her. I had nothing but hatred in my heart for that man."

Mary was reluctant in those days to talk about the horror she suffered, saying only she hated to see anyone hitchhiking.

A year later, she said she was haunted by nightmares of the crime and the trial.

But fear didn't rule the teen-ager's life.

"I'm just a normal person now learning about things I didn't know before," she said in that interview. "I've survived the worst. Now I can survive the rest."

Feb. 21, 1997

  • Las Vegas teen-ager one of Singleton's victims

  • Mary Vincent goes on to live a full life despite her ordeal.
  • What an amazing Lady to have had the strength to overcome this unbelievable tragedy despite severe trauma and her permanent disabilities.

Mary Vincent, seen in this 1978 file photo, was 15 years old when Lawrence Singleton picked her up when she was hitchhiking to see her grandfather in Corona, Calif. Singleton raped her, hacked off her forearms and left her for dead.

Photo by Gary Thompson

Mary said at the time she couldn't believe Singleton was sentenced to only 14 years. "I know I can never forget this," she said.

After Singleton's conviction, the teen-ager and her mother embarked on a series of talks shows aimed at warning young people about the dangers of hitchhiking.

Singleton was released from San Quentin in April 1988 after serving eight years and four months. Mary Vincent was married four months later.

"We are frustrated, angry and bitter that he's being released so early," her mother told the Review-Journal.

At the time, Mary Vincent said she believed her attacker would come looking for her again.

"What he's going to do, you don't know," her mother said. "We take precautions, but God is looking down on us. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen.

"They have to make a change in the system," Lucy Vincent said at the time. "After what he did, he gets eight years for good behavior. We're catering to the criminal."

Eva Collenberger, executive director of Families of Murder Victims in Las Vegas, said Singleton's arrest Wednesday in Florida on a murder charge is proof that not all criminals mellow with age.

"A great number of people should never get out of prison," she said. "Sometimes we just can't take the chance.

Review-Journal writer Warren Bates contributed to this report.

One Amazing Lady!

Mary Vincent Goes On

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