Convicted murderer Audie Fox – who killed Itasca County Deputy Sheriff Robert “Beefy” Lawson in a 1981 incident in Pengilly – is again up for a life sentence review and attempts are being made to make sure Fox never leaves his prison cell.
Bobby Lawson, the son of Beefy Lawson and a retired Itasca County jailer, said this is the fourth time Fox has had a life sentence review, with the others coming in 1995, 2005, and 2015. He said an advisory board comprised of the commissioner of corrections and others will evaluate the case. He added that there are two options: they either set up a further continuance or they would make arrangements for Fox’s release from prison.
“I am asking the community to write letters to express their feelings on how they would feel if Fox were to be released,” Lawson said. “It has now been 39 years now and I can say that through all the information that I have received, there hasn’t been any changes in who Fox is.”
Lawson said the letters have a big impact on the outcome of the review and that the letters are totally confidential. Letters can be as short as one sentence or as long as desired.
“There have been concerns in the past from people who felt that there could be some retaliation from some of their writings but new laws protect the confidentiality and I am assured that Fox has absolutely no idea how many letters are written or who wrote them,” Lawson explained.
Letters will be accepted by sending them to: Lindsay Gullingsurd, MN Dept. of Corrections, Life Sentence Review Advocacy, 1450 Energy Park Drive, Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55108, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or fax to 651-642-0457.
Please include in the letter: Life Sentence Review, Offender Audie Fox OID# 103592. All letters received before Dec. 29, 2020, will be accepted.
Lawson said Fox and Beefy Lawson had many interactions and he believes the first interaction was with his father trying to help Fox, like he had done for many others in the past. Lawson said his father very rarely talked about his job but he said the summer before his death Beefy warned his son about Fox.
“My dad told me that if I ever ran into a person named Audie Fox that I had better be careful because he was going to kill somebody some day,” Lawson explained.
That turned to reality in late October 1981, when Deputy Lawson was shot and killed by Fox while attempting to pick up two children from Fox’s parents’ residence in Pengilly. Fox’s estranged wife had called Lawson to ask him to go to the residence to get her children. Lawson was off duty at the time and he called the sheriff’s office for permission to pick up the children and return them to their mother.
Lawson was familiar with the Fox family, but was unaware that Audie Fox, a fugitive who had felony warrants out against him, would be at the home.
Upon entering the home, Lawson observed the two children sitting at the table with Audie’s aunt and greeted them. At that time, Audie Fox jumped out from behind the door where he was hiding and pointed a .357 revolver at Lawson’s back. Fox demanded to know where his estranged wife was. Lawson told Fox he was unaware of her whereabouts and would have to call for that information. Fox continued to demand the information and finally forced Lawson to the floor by cocking the gun and putting it to the back of his head.
Following the shooting Fox held his children hostage in the home for 18 hours before he was taken into custody. It was later discovered that Fox had carved Lawson’s nickname, “Beefy,” into the shell casing used to shoot Lawson. The other bullets in the gun had the names of his estranged wife and the children. The day before the killing, Fox had broken into the home, forced his parents out and had coerced the aunt to bring his children to the location. Fox also forced his aunt at gunpoint to make multiple calls to get his estranged wife and Deputy Lawson to his location.
“We all felt so helpless when he was murdered and the process now gives us a voice to help us maintain justice and keep the community safe,” said Lawson. “I had a conversation recently with a family member and he wanted me to mention that he feels like it has been a life sentence for him. So I really feel strongly that if I didn’t do everything I could to maintain justice and keep Audie Fox where he is, if he was ever be released and there is a victim, I would feel partially responsible for that.”