While other 16-year-olds dated, went to parties and stayed out late, Michelle Lambert went to church three times a week, had to be in bed by ten, was forbidden to bring boys to the house, and was told that wearing a miniskirt was a mortal sin. No wonder her high school classmates at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, called her a prude and a goody-goody, but her parents, Judy and Len Lambert, believed in old-fashioned values, and while she lived at home, Michelle would have to conform. Len Lambert, a former Air Force officer, and now an accountant, ran a strict Presbyterian household — no smoking, no drinking, no rock and roll music and certainly no casual relationships. Michelle accepted that's how things were, that until she left home, she would have to accept a lifestyle that belonged to another age. Then, in July 1989, on a beautiful Pennsylvania summer day, something happened to Michelle Lambert which meant that she no longer feared her father or worried about the consequences of defying him.
On that day she met the man who would become her whole world and would bring violent tragedy which would change their lives for ever. Michelle was at a swimming pool in nearby Pioneer Woods with her brother Jeremy when she was introduced to the pool's lifeguard, a young man with a golden tan, bright blue eyes and hair so blond it was almost white.
His name was Lawrence Yunkin and he was 20. He was, Michelle was to remember later, the most attractive man she had ever seen. Lawrence Yunkin was pretty impressed by the tall willowy brunette, too. He asked her out. That night they saw the movie Batman, and the next night he took her to meet his parents. "I liked her," his mother, Jackie would recall. She was a polite young lady. On their next date, Lawrence appeared with a large bunch of roses and asked Michelle to marry him when she was 18. She agreed and for the next two years they had a passionate, though often tempestuous, relationship, of which Michelle's parents not surprisingly, totally disapproved. When he visited the Lambert home it invariably ended in unpleasantness and sometimes violence — twice he got in a fight with Michelle's brother after Jeremy Lambert said that Yunkin was a bad influence on his sister. He seems to have had a point — Judy and Len Lambert had noticed that money and other property was missing from the house. When they confronted Michelle she admitted that she had stolen $500 and her father's coin collection after Yunkin had told her he was short of money. This was the final straw for the Lamberts. In September 1991, soon after their daughter's 19th birthday, they told her to leave the house for good, and even delivered a letter to the local police department which warned that if Michelle didn't stay away she would be prosecuted for theft.
The letter continued: "You are not permitted on our property at any time, you are not to call our home for any reason and you are not to bother or disturb us in any way." It also stipulated that she was not to contact her father at work or her brother at school.
Michelle moved with Yunkin into a shabby apartment in a neighbouring suburb and, as they had wished, did not contact her parents. Not even when, in November 1991, she found she was pregnant. At first, Yunkin seemed delighted by the prospect of becoming a father, but soon Michelle thought she detected a change in his attitude towards her and suspected he was seeing someone.
She was right. Yunkin had met 17-year-old high school girl Laurie Show and soon they were having secret assignations. They went to the shops, the local zoo, a swimming pool. Not knowing that Yunkin already had a girlfriend, Laurie's parents, John and Hazel invited him to the house to watch television. John Show would later say: "He seemed a nice enough guy although I thought that at 20 he was a bit old for my daughter." But when Hazel inadvertently heard about the pregnancy she was quick to bring the relationship to an end. She told Yunkin: "You have a problem you need to take care of, but you mustn't involve Laurie in this. You're not to see her anymore." Yunkin agreed. Hazel said: "He said he would make things right with Michelle and hopefully she need never hear about his fling with Laurie. But Michelle found out ... and all hell was let loose."
Michelle now planned her revenge on the girl who she believed had wrecked her chances of happiness. A friend later recalled: "There's no doubt Michelle loved Lawrence — there was nothing more important to her. To Laurie, Yunkin was just a fling. But to Michelle, Yunkin was her whole life."
Soon Michelle was visiting Laurie in the shop where she worked after school and issuing serious threats. "I swear," she said, "if you slept with him I'll kill you." She began to ring the Show apartment at all times of the day and night. But verbal threats were not enough. Michelle attacked Laurie in the street, shouting: "You've ruined my life and my future child's life. I swear I'm going to kill you." The Shows called the police who issued a warrant for assault and threatening behaviour. "I was tired of my daughter being shouted at in the street and having to look over her shoulder everywhere she went," Hazel said. "I just hope this is the end of the nightmare for us all." In fact it was only just the beginning. On the morning of December 20, 1991, Hazel had to go out on an early morning errand and arrived home at 8.30am. Checking that Laurie was getting ready for school, she opened the door of her daughter's bedroom — and recoiled in horror from the sight that met her eyes.
Laurie lay on the white carpet covered in blood. There was a thin rope tied tightly around her neck. Hazel Show later told police: "She was trying to make sounds. I screamed to my neighbour to call the ambulance and cut the rope off with a kitchen knife. At first I thought the rope was the only problem but then I saw that her throat had been cut. I later found that her windpipe and nine blood vessels had been severed. She had also been stabbed in the back and legs. There was no way to stop the bleeding.
"I knew she was going to die. I cradled her in my arms until help arrived but then it was too late. She whispered: "Michelle did it, mummy." I told her: 'I love you, honey. Daddy loves you. God will take care of you.' I heard her say: 'I love you...' and then she died. Hardened detectives were shocked by the ferocity of the attack. "Probably the most brutal thing I've seen in 20 years of law enforcement," said Police Chief Jacob Glick. "It looks like the work of a lunatic."
Laurie's identification of her killer was reinforced later in the day by a neighbour who told police that shortly before Mrs Show arrived back, two young people had left the building, both wearing hooded sweatshirts. One girl was pregnant. The neighbour added: "I think it was Michelle Lambert."
In July 1992 Michelle Lambert and Lawrence Yunkin appeared in court in Lancaster with a third suspect, schoolgirl Tabitha "Tabby" Buck. From the beginning Michelle quickly put all the blame on Tabby, a quiet dark-haired girl who played flute in the school band.
Michelle told the court: "Yunkin was the first guy I ever really trusted so when I heard he had slept with Laurie I was really mad. This morning I decided to go and talk to Laurie.
"Tabby went in first and when I got there they were fighting. Tabby had a knife and was stabbing Laurie in the neck and body. I turned away — I can't stand the sight of blood — and left. I didn't have anything to do with the stabbing."
Yunkin also claimed to have not taken part in the killing. He told the jury: "I thought they were just going to tie her up and cut her hair." But he did admit to helping dispose of the murder weapons in a nearby river. The jury didn't believe any of their stories. Michelle Lambert was found guilty of first degree murder but escaped the death penalty because of her youth and motherhood — she had given birth to a daughter. She was jailed for life with no chance of parole. Tabby Buck received a life sentence for second degree murder and Yunkin got 10-20 years for charges concerning perverting the course of justice. Tabitha Buck was released on parole in 2000, but Michelle Lambert, in Edna Mahon Prison, New Jersey, is never likely to be released. Her daughter, Kirsten, is being brought up by her parents. "I have lost my freedom and the man I loved," she said recently. "But losing my daughter is the worst punishment of all."
Source:Willard Roper/Tony James Features