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Why did a poor North Carolina tobacco farmer kill his wife, six of his kids and himself on Christmas Day, 1929? Despite more than 90 years of rumors and speculations, some family members say they know what was on the heart and mind of Charlie Lawson. Thanks to some recently discovered interviews you’ll hear the voices of people who were there that day and those who’ve kept family secrets for decades.

Christmas Day, 1929

Tucked away in a quiet corner of Stokes County, known as Brook Cove, you’ll find a small family cemetery.

Buried here are more than just the remains of those who lived and farmed the community. There are secrets here too. Secrets of why a man named Charlie Lawson killed his wife, six of his children and himself on Christmas Day, 1929.

What is known is that a couple of weeks before Christmas, Charlie took his family into Winston-Salem, bought them all new clothes and had a family portrait made. The cost of new clothes and a portrait was an extravagant expense for a poor tobacco farming family in 1929.

“I think he knew he wanted to preserve his family for history,” said Trudy J. Smith, who has written two books about the murders. “He knew what he was doing, I think.”

The Lawson Family, captured at a Winston-Salem studio a few weeks before the murders. December, 1929.
(Top Left to Right) Arthur (16), Marie (17), Charlie (43), Fannie (37), Mary Lou (3 months old). (Sitting Left to Right) James (4), Mae Bell (7), Raymond (2), Carrie (12).

Smith’s research led her to people who were there that day like Charlie Lawson’s nephew Claude Lawson.

“Whenever I went in there, some of them was laying in the house dead, blood was running ever which a way,” said Claude, who discovered the bodies.

This is the inside of the Lawson Family home, left as it was when the family was found. Charlie Lawson placed pillows under the heads of his victims after they were killed.

His 1991 interview with FOX8 photojournalist Chuck Hemrick was recently discovered.

“He killed them all in the house there but two girls. He shot them right there at the barn and drug them into the barn and put rocks under their head,” said Claude, who passed away in 1993.

Charlie’s oldest son Arthur survived.

Arthur had been rabbit hunting when he ran out of ammunition and decided to walk into Germanton to buy more. Around 1 p.m., while Arthur was in town, Charlie began killing his family and shortly after the bodies were discovered, he took his own life behind the home.

“He had two little beagle dogs and they was laying beside uncle Charlie,” Claude said. “He shot himself over there in the woods. He carried a stick and turned the gun right toward him, toward his heart and shot himself right in the heart.”

The murders gained national attention, making the front page of the New York Times. Thousands attended the funeral at a private cemetery.

All of the family were buried in a mass grave. The youngest member of the family, 3-month-old Mary Lou, was buried in her mother’s arms.

The Lawson Family home after the murders, 1930. Notice the chicken wire erected around the home to keep gawkers from stealing pieces of the home.