STOKES COUNTY, N.C. -- Why did Charlie Lawson kill his wife, six kids and himself on Christmas Day, 1929? Did Charlie Lawson take that secret to his grave or is it his grave where we find a clue?
There etched in the family's gravestone it reads, "Not now, but in the coming, it will be in a better land. We'll read the meaning of our tears and sometime we'll understand."
"I remember saying to my father, 'Wow that was like a prophecy or something,'" said Trudy J. Smith, who first visited the grave in the 1980s. "I said it seems really strange it says 'read' the meaning of our tears."
The epitaph inspired Trudy and her father, Bruce Jones, to start research for their 1991 book "White Christmas, Bloody Christmas."
"It just stuck with me, just like it did just everybody else," said Jones, in a 1991 interview. "I wanted to know the truth."
For two and a half years, Jones and his daughter worked to find the truth, breaking down the events of that day and interviewing family members like Charlie Lawson's niece, Stella Lawson Boles.
"This was just unbelievable when this happened," said Boles, in a 1991 interview. She was almost 14 when the murders happened. "I could hardly take it in, after being [at the Lawson home] and seeing all the love that uncle Charlie showed his family."
Jones and Smith's original conclusion to their book was no one would ever really know. But just before the book was set to go to print Boles had more to say.
"She said, 'You know what? It's time. It's time to do it,'" Smith said. "She said, 'It’s the truth, it's what I know, what I understood.'"
Boles told the authors Charlie's oldest daughter, Marie, was pregnant and Charlie was the father.
"It was just a close family and I didn't know that things was going on in the family like they were until I think this happened," said Boles, in that 1991 interview. Boles passed away in 1994. Jones passed away in 2001.
"It's a very difficult story, it's sad, it's hurtful, it can tend to be embarrassing," Smith said. "I tried to handle it as tenderly as I could being what it is."
After the book came out, came expected threats toward the authors and more people wanting to share what they knew.
"If we hadn't done what we did, when we did it, almost every voice in the book we talked to is deceased now, so it's a record for them," said Smith, who was able to publish another book on the tragedy, "The Meaning of our Tears."
"I think the story is really as much about the history of the area and the people who witnessed things, the people who knew things, the people who kept secrets almost all their life," Smith said.
This is part of FOX8's series on the Lawson Family Murder.
For episode 1, click here.
Listen to the trailer for FOX8's podcast, "Deadly Secrets: The Lawson Family Murder."
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