The Tragic Story of Laurie Show: Rape, Murder, and Anti-Stalking Laws
There's not a more uncertain period in life than adolescence. Especially for teenage girls. You never really know who your friends are from one day to the next. Talking to the wrong person could alienate you for the rest of your adolescence. Even going out with the wrong boy can cause a whole world of trouble from jealous girls that wanted that invitation. For all the money in the world, I most certainly would not be a teenage girl again. The endless drama, the fights, the name-calling, the cruel jokes and pranks. But what happens when typical teenage drama between girls goes awry?
Laurie Show was described in an article on Lancaster Online as being a pleasant, hard-working girl that mostly liked to keep to herself. She was a resident of East Lampeter Township in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In 1991, Laurie was a sophomore, attending Conestoga Valley High School. This is where she met and befriended Lisa Michelle Lambert, who went by Michelle. Pictures of Michelle featured on a 20/20 special from 1999 show her looking very much like the quintessential popular girl, with her bottle-blond hair, blue contact lenses, and tight, short dresses. Think Cher from the film, Clueless. Pictures of Laurie show a drastically different young woman. More modestly dressed, with a sweeter face and natural features.
The summer of 1991 seemed to be a confusing time for young Laurie. That summer, she reportedly started dating Michelle's ex-boyfriend, Lawrence Yunkin, known to friends and family as Butch. The couple had only briefly separated, during which time Butch began seeing Laurie, possibly as a way to get back at Michelle. During the short-lived relationship, Butch date raped Laurie. This only compounded the stress of the harassment she was already facing from her former friend. The quintessential popular girl was jealous and angry, and she wasn't about to let the imagined slight against her go.
It didn't take long for Butch's affections to wear thin after the sexual assault. He immediately went back to Michelle, who was continuing her campaign of harassment against Laurie. Classmates and friends of the manipulative young woman were joining in on the torture. Michelle would repeatedly call the condo that Laurie shared with her mother, Hazel Show (also reported by Lancaster Online as Hazel Haas). In a televised interview I found under the title NBC Dateline Mysteries on YouTube, Hazel described the intimidation her daughter endured from the girl that had briefly been her friend. Phone calls that disturbed the quiet household at all hours of the day and night, that if left unanswered, would just continue to ring. If they dared to answer the persistent phone calls, they were verbally assaulted, with Michelle hurling threats and obscenities from the other end. It was in one of these intimidating phone calls that Michelle revealed to Laurie that she was pregnant with Butch's baby.
The harassment didn't stop at threatening phone calls. Michelle actually started stalking what she viewed as a romantic rival. Laurie ended up caught between a narcissistic sociopath and the man that had raped her. She was too terrified of Michelle to even file a police report against Butch. She was left in the agony and shame that comes along with sexual assault, with Michelle only throwing salt in her open wound. Laurie took a part-time job as she tried to go on with her life, but Michelle couldn't even let her have that. According to Wikipedia, she would show up to Laurie's job, verbally assaulting her the same way she did on the telephone. The jealous bully even managed to get co-workers of her's in on the torment.
Wikipedia's page on this case reports that witnesses later came forward with appalling stories to tell about Michelle. They stated that she had shown a desire to "scare Laurie, then hurt her, then slit her throat." The YouTube documentary previously mentioned also went into detail about a physical altercation instigated by Michelle. When asked in her interview, Michelle casts her gaze towards the floor as she describes the incident in an emotionless, monotone voice. Michelle slapped her imagined rival across the face before slamming her head into the side of a car in a parking lot. She shows no feeling or remorse whatsoever as she describes assaulting Laurie Show while threatening to kill her if she hurt the baby Michelle was pregnant with.
After the parking lot assault, Laurie and her mother filed a report with the police. This only infuriated Michelle further. Laurie's father, John Show, also gave an interview for the above mentioned documentary. He told of the endless, tormenting fear that his daughter lived in. She couldn't even feel safe and comfortable going out in public with her family. If she saw Michelle, she turned around and hurried the other way, hoping to avoid further encounters.
Michelle's life was spiraling out of control while she focused all of her time and energy on Laurie. A 17-year-old high school dropout, she had been caught stealing money from her parents, who promptly kicked her out. She moved into Butch's trailer in the woods with him. Even while starting her new life and preparing to welcome her daughter into the world, she still couldn't let it go. As her rage continued to boil over, she enlisted some help from a friend.
Tabitha Buck was also 17-years-old and very much under Michelle's spell. She accompanied her so-called friend to the store to buy murder supplies and went right along with her to Laurie's condo, too. While it's not known exactly which one placed the call, Hazel received a phone call claiming to be from a guidance counselor at Laurie's school. She rushed off to meet the counselor at seven that morning. Butch drove the girls to the condominium complex and dropped them off, going to a local McDonald's to wait. With the time they had bought themselves, Tabitha admittedly knocked on the door and forced their way in when Laurie answered.
While Tabitha admits to sitting on Laurie's legs to prevent her from moving while Michelle killed her, Michelle gives a completely different version of events. She initially claimed that Tabitha did everything, while she just stood and watched in terror. Michelle claims that once they rushed in, Laurie ran for the phone in her bedroom. Tabitha supposedly grabbed it and threw it down on the floor. While it's not definitively known which one of the girls threw the phone down, it can be seen at her feet in crime scene photos, with the cord wrapped around her ankle.
Fox 43 reported that Laurie suffered a five-inch laceration across her throat. A rope had also been wrapped around her throat after it was cut. A stab wound punctured her lung and a deep cut also penetrated her thigh to the pelvic bone. Another wound had grazed her spine, with several to her head and numerous defensive wounds found as well. The tortured and tormented young woman lay clinging to life when her mother ran in and discovered her in a pool of her own blood.
In her interview, Hazel speaks of finding her helpless teenage daughter on the floor with a rope around her neck, and blood pooling underneath her. She immediately ran to the kitchen to grab a knife, hoping to cut the rope and alleviate her daughter's suffering. Upon cutting the rope, Hazel saw the deep gash across Laurie's throat. As she said in court testimonies and her interview, she simply held Laurie in her arms, trying to hold her together as she was forced to watch the light go out in her own daughter's eyes. With the struggling, dying girl's last breaths, she uttered, "Michelle did it. I love you." Before breathing her final breath, Laurie used the last of the energy she had left to repeat her final words until her passing, "I love you."
As the gravity of the situation was setting in, Hazel noted one thing. The name. She knew the name Michelle quite well. Hazel had met her daughter's bottle-blond bully before the friendship ended in terror. She had also been forced to listen to Michelle's scornful phone calls, sometimes answering only to make the phone stop ringing. When police were called to the scene, Hazel made her daughter's final words and her victimization at the hands of Lisa Michelle Lambert known. Witnesses in the neighborhood also reported to authorities that they had seen a male and a female near the house that morning. Given the history between Laurie, Michelle, and Butch, investigators were extremely interested in talking to Laurie's persecutor and her boyfriend right away.
Just hours later, the murderous trio was found hanging out at the Garden Spot Bowling Center in Strasburg. This was their typical hangout and that day seemed like any other to anybody watching them. No one would've known that they had just worked together to end the life of the poor girl they had been plaguing with endless harassment for months. Initially, police were only interested in talking to Michelle and Butch as it had been Butch that reportedly raped Laurie, and Michelle that was accused of stalking and harassing her. They became more intrigued by Tabitha Buck after noticing a gash across her cheek as she sat with her friends at the bowling alley. Upon asking what had happened to her, Michelle spoke up and answered as Tabitha cast her gaze to the ground, avoiding eye contact with the officers. She claimed that they had both gotten into a fight with some "Latino" girls earlier that day. After this odd interaction, all three were arrested and arraigned the following day.
At the time of their arrests, Michelle and Tabitha were both 17, and Butch was 20. Testimony from those that knew Michelle painted a dark picture of a young woman that could manipulate anyone around her and lie without batting an eye. A former classmate of her's, Nicole Schmitt told the Intelligencer Journal, "Oh yeah, I thought she could do it." She wasn't the only one. Many of her former friends and classmates were not surprised by the crime or the perpetrator.
Police in Lancaster County were under an immense amount of pressure with this case. Not only did they have to try to make sense out of a senseless crime, they had to piece together a puzzle from three different stories being told in three separate rooms. They also had the task of getting ahead of the media. As Laurie's murder occurred in 1991, the Satanic Panic was still in swing. Many were speculating that the killing may have had a Satanic motive. Police rushed to get the word out that there was no evidence of a Satanic killing. This was simply a jealous teenage girl that went entirely too far.
As Michelle and Tabitha turned on each other, Butch seemed like he was going to be the prosecution's best bet for a full story of what happened. He told investigators that he initially believed the girls were going into Laurie's condo to pull a cruel prank. He thought that they were going to cut her hair with the knife and leave it at that. It was after he picked them back up that he found out about the murder. Though he claims to have had no prior knowledge of the killing, he did admit to providing the girls with an alibi and disposing of the evidence. Police later located a pink trash bag with bloody clothing inside.
It didn't take long for both girls to recant their previous statements. Tabitha had admitted to knocking on the door and forcing her way inside. She also admitted to sitting on Laurie's legs to pin her down for the murder. However, she took no responsibility for the crime whatsoever, saying that Michelle was the one to kill her. Meanwhile, Michelle was telling authorities that Tabitha was the blood-thirsty killer. She had killed Laurie while Michelle stood and watched out of fear. Once those statements were recanted, Butch also changed his testimony.
Michelle began telling what would become an evolution of her story. Over time, her version of events would grow legs, crawl from the primordial ooze, and take off running. Investigators, as well as the courts of Lancaster County, quickly found out just how easily this young woman could spin a web. The only question was, how easily could they tangle her up in it?
In Michelle's new story, she painted herself as a victim of abuse at the hands of her daughter's father. She claimed that Butch had pressured and intimidated her into harassing, stalking, and assaulting Laurie. All of this was meant to intimidate her so she wouldn't file sexual assault charges against him. She also implicated him in the murder, saying that he was the one to stab Laurie while she watched out of fear of being beaten, or worse. This may have been what encouraged Butch to turn state's evidence against the mother of his child and her other accomplice in return for a lesser charge.
It was decided without much debate that all three would be charged as adults for their heinous crime. Michelle and Tabitha were both initially facing charges of criminal homicide and criminal conspiracy, while Butch was only being charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution. Though the kids seemed unable to get their stories straight, one thing could be determined. Both girls actively participated in the murder.
With charges filed and trials beginning in the summer of 1992, only two things were left to figure out. How was Michelle going to give birth to her baby while incarcerated, awaiting trial? And who was supposed to take care of the little girl when she was born? Michelle couldn't very well raise a child in her cell. By the time she gave birth on March 19, 1992, everything seems to have been figured out just fine. Michelle was released from prison for only a few hours to have her baby. When she was brought back to the small, cold, concrete room she now called home, her parents took custody of her child.
The birth of her baby was no doubt a joyous, but somber occasion. She knew that she was not going to be taking her baby home. She was already aware that her parents would get that privilege while she sat in her tiny cell, waiting to find out her own fate. Adding to the grief she likely faced in giving up her daughter, Lancaster County District Attorney Joseph Madenspacher dealt another blow just weeks before the baby's birth. On March 4, he announced that he would be seeking the death penalty for both Lisa Michelle Lambert and Tabitha Buck. Just six days after the baby was born, on March 25, Michelle and Tabitha both entered not guilty pleas.
Desperately trying to buy herself some time, Michelle requested a change of venue. With the amount of media surrounding the trial, it's not surprising her attorneys would recommend this. The request was denied, but a request for a trial by judge rather than jury was granted. Judge Lawrence Stengel would be the sole decider of Michelle's fate. Testimony began in her trial on July 9.
That very same day, Tabitha's defense team put forth a request that she be tried as a juvenile. If granted, this would mean that the death penalty would be pulled off the table and she would only serve a term as little as four years. Her attorneys argued that she was only 17 at the time the crime occurred and she had no prior criminal record. She was said to be amenable to treatment and that she could receive proper treatment before reaching the age of 21. It's at this age that juvenile court defendants are released from the court's supervision. By the end of July, Tabitha's lawyers would withdraw their request. In exchange, the prosecution would drop their intentions of seeking the death penalty against her.
While Tabitha had managed to dodge the death penalty, Michelle was still trying. Testimony in her trial further proved to the judge and the prosecutors that she was deceitful and treacherous. Suddenly, Michelle went back to her original story, claiming Tabitha had been the sole perpetrator. This only cemented her reputation in Judge Stengel's eyes as devious. Members of her defense team tried to argue that Laurie had written the initials T.B. in her blood, pointing to Tabitha Buck's initials. Hazel's testimony countered that claim when she told the court that Laurie's dying breaths had named her killer as Michelle.
Letters written between Michelle and Butch while awaiting trial were entered into the state's evidence. These letters clearly show Michelle attempting to push blame on Butch and Tabitha, while maintaining her innocence. According to Wikipedia, one letter reads in part, "I know I'm not an angel, but Lawrence, I never got mad enough to kill." In another letter from Michelle shown in the above mentioned documentary, she asks, "Will you always stick with me as long as I still don't tell that you held Laurie down for Tabby?" His response simply read, "Will always love you." This letter was a series of questions that she wrote to her boyfriend with spaces left open for his responses. The document came to be known as the 29 Questions.
On top of the obviously dishonest letters, bloody clothing retrieved from the pink trash bag was also entered into evidence. Sweatpants, socks, and ski masks, all covered in Laurie's blood and clearly belonging to two teenage girls, given their size. Judge Stengel could clearly see what was right in front of him. On July 20, he convicted Michelle of first-degree murder and criminal conspiracy in the death of Laurie Show. She was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Her fight was far from over, though. This calculating, shrewd young woman would claw her way through the justice system, attempting to once again taste freedom that she never deserved.
In August 1992, Tabitha was facing the same life sentence that her friend and accomplice had already received. It was decided by the State Supreme Court that her trial would be moved outside of Lancaster County due to the massive amount of media coverage the case was receiving. Her trial was set to take place in Easton, located in Lehigh County. The bloody clothes recovered were used as evidence against her in her trial as well. Butch also testified in both of their trials, saying that Michelle and Tabitha had slit Laurie's throat after stabbing her. After an eight-day long trial and a three-hour deliberation among the jury, Tabitha was found guilty of second-degree murder. She, too was sentenced to life without parole. She would also start appealing her verdict immediately.
Butch would have received the lesser charge of hindering apprehension or prosecution, earning him a lighter sentence. Instead, he was found to have perjured himself. His original deal was taken off the table and he was given a ten to twenty year sentence for driving Michelle and Tabitha to Laurie's home.
Tabitha's three-year appeals process thankfully went nowhere. All of her appeals were denied. Meanwhile, Michelle was working on getting herself out of prison, too. In 1997, she wrote a letter of appeal to US District Judge Stewart Dalzall, who then ordered a review of her case. Michelle was attempting to morph her story, claiming that Butch had worked with the police to frame her. She also claimed that one of the police officers had raped her after her arrest. Aside from playing the framed victim, she continued to play her role as the battered girlfriend, too. Michelle wrote to the US District Judge that Butch had pushed her into harassing and assaulting Laurie so she wouldn't file sexual assault charges, but he and Tabitha had been the ones to kill her.
In a whole new version of that fateful morning, Michelle told Judge Dalzall that she was present when the crime was committed, but she had tried to flee. She was stopped by Butch and stayed out of fear. The previously mentioned documentary stated that Michelle came to court with a whole new defense team that decided on changing her look to change her public image. She stopped wearing her blue contact lenses and went back to her natural hair color. Looking like an entirely different person than the blue-eyed blond from the 1992 murder trial, she hoped to garner sympathy, then freedom. As Michelle wriggled her way into the federal courtroom, she did so under a new name as well. With dark hair and dark eyes attempting to hide the darkness of her soul, she addressed the court as Lisa Lambert.
From the very beginning of the three-week long trial, Judge Dalzall made his disdain for the police department known. Hazel found herself quite concerned about the outcome. The US District Judge that she was trusting to do the right thing had shown a clear and blatant bias from the start. Furthermore, Michelle was playing her part like an Emmy Award-winning actress. Hazel questioned the justice system for the first time as she watched her daughter's killer pull the wool over the judge's eyes. After viewing the same evidence from her previous trial, Judge Dalzall determined Michelle to be innocent and wrote a scathing review of the case. After ordering her release, he even barred the state of Pennsylvania from trying her again.
But, God is good and the state of Pennsylvania did not let this matter go. The State Supreme Court ruled that she had not exhausted her state level appeals before attempting to appeal her case at the federal level. For no reason can this process be skipped over, like Michelle attempted to do. This effectively overturned Judge Dazall's ruling and she was re-tried in Lancaster by Judge Stengel once again. Stengel upheld his 1992 ruling and promptly returned the freed killer to prison to serve out her life sentence. She only tasted freedom for ten short months before returning to her cell, much to the relief of Hazel Show.
Wikipedia states that after Dalzall's ruling was overturned, the federal court system was in debate. They didn't know if they should hold her or uphold the ruling and release her. Michelle filed an appeal for a hearing over her second overturned verdict, but it was denied. In February 1998, the State Supreme Court returned her case to Lancaster County, stating that she "must first take up her claims [there]." She did just that and in May 1998, another trial was held, with Judge Stengel overseeing the proceedings once again.
In her third trial, the same evidence was presented over again. Butch and Tabitha also testified at the hearing, among several other witnesses, including the lead detective on her case. He outright denied Michelle's claims of evidence being tampered with in order to frame her. In a more revised version of her story, Michelle claimed to have watched Butch choke Laurie as he actively participated in the killing. She even claimed in this dramatic retelling that she attempted to defend Laurie against her attackers, trying to get her out of the condo. According to her defense team, Michelle was sent to another room while the murder took place. As they claim her to be a victim of battered woman syndrome, they said that she obeyed the order without question out of pure fear of Butch.
Yet again, Michelle took to the courtroom with her game face on. She portrayed her part so well that she was even released from prison for the duration of the trial. This was how confident everyone was that she would win again. Hazel was left wondering after the outcome of her previous trial.
A previous boyfriend of Michelle's was called to testify in her hearing. He told the court that he'd witnessed Butch "yank [her] into a room" before he started yelling at her. This same witness testified to seeing one of the officers that had allegedly raped her giving her a "threatening glare" at a local festival.
Her correspondence with Butch was presented again, but by the defense. They tried to use their letters as proof that Butch committed the crime, while Michelle was just an innocent bystander. The prosecution countered with a poem written by Michelle to Butch in which she described the murder. Her attorneys also tried to lean on the argument that Laurie had written T.B. in her own blood, this time stating that the initials stood for Tabitha and Butch. They also tried to question whether Laurie would've been able to speak with her throat cut. Crime scene experts testified for the prosecution that there was no evidence at the scene to support the claim that Laurie had tried to write anything in her blood.
Tabitha's testimony gave a clearer picture of that early December morning. She said that Michelle had not only participated, but gave strict instructions to avoid leaving any evidence behind. She says Michele ordered her to "wear her hair up and not to wear make-up or fingernail polish." Butch was also brought up to dispute another of Michelle's claims. Her defense was arguing that the sweatpants recovered actually belonged to Butch. After standing before the court and holding the pants up to his waist, it was quickly seen that they were much too tight and too short to fit him.
In August 1998, Judge Stengel ruled that he would uphold his original guilty verdict. In his closing statement he said that "even if he believed [her] story...[she] would still be guilty of first-degree murder as an accomplice." Federal Judge Anita Brody also upheld the conviction when she was finally able to appeal at the federal level again. Her appeal of this verdict was rejected in 2003, as was her attempt to bring the case to the US Supreme Court. She finally exhausted all of her appeals in 2005, sealing her fate as a life-long inmate, convicted of murder.
Michelle hadn't had her last day in court, though. She would appear again in 2007, this time suing the correctional institution over claims of being raped and assaulted by staff members of the prison in 1996. Her lawyer argued that nothing had been done to stop the abuse from continuing. It was also argued that her murder conviction in the case of Laurie Show would impede her from receiving a fair hearing in her rape case. In the end, Michelle was rewarded a $35,000 settlement and the accused guard was sentenced to one and a half to three years in prison. Today, Michelle's settlement would be worth $48,802.53.
According to Lancaster Online, Butch was paroled in August 2004, after serving nearly twelve years of his ten to twenty year sentence. It was his third attempt at making parole. Butch had stood before the board in 2001, then again in 2002, facing rejection both times. Hazel's presence at the hearings and letters she'd written to the board had helped them to easily make the decision to hold him. She figured that these letters would still be in his file and there was no need to keep petitioning for his continued imprisonment. With no one to speak up at his hearing and no new letters asking that he not be released, the board granted his parole. Until his sentence was fully served on December 21, 2011, he remained on parole. Today, he is a free man.
In 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled life sentences against juvenile offenders to be unconstitutional. This new ruling allowed Tabitha Buck a new hearing to receive a new sentence. It also made her eligible for parole. Lancaster County Judge Dennis Reinaker ordered her sentence to be 28 years to life. As she had already served 26 years, she would become eligible for parole in 2020. Prosecutors argued that Tabitha should have to serve at least thirty years of her term before becoming eligible. They cited Laurie's surviving family members and the devastation the crime had caused the community.
Assistant District Attorney Susan Moyer pointed out that since the commission of the crime, Tabitha had shown not a shred of remorse. When asked at her 2017 hearing about the murder, she simply stated that she "can't imagine" how her's or Laurie's families felt about her re-sentencing. This was only a small part of the fifteen minutes of testimony she gave at the hearing. Fox 43 reported that she never said a word about the crime, itself during her entire testimony. They also reported Hazel's statement, read at the re-sentencing, saying, "Laurie died a horrible life...for reasons I will never understand." And asked, "Why did you agree to come to our house that morning?"
In August 2019, Tabitha Buck was granted parole, with her earliest possible release date listed as December 21. The day after the 28th anniversary of Laurie's death. According to Fox 43, she is barred from living in or traveling to Lancaster County. She is also prohibited from contacting Laurie's family members and is required to take psychiatric medication as prescribed by her doctor. All of this is according to the board's decision to release her.
Though Tabitha and Butch are free today, Michelle is still right where she belongs. In a prison cell. Since her short-lived release and inevitable return to prison in 1998, she's been shuffled around quite a bit. She started her life-long term in her home state of Pennsylvania before being moved to Delaware, then New Jersey. She now resides at a medium-security facility in Massachusetts.
After championing her daughter's case, Hazel moved on to champion a cause in her daughter's name. She had been forced to sit back and helplessly watch as her daughter was stalked, harassed, and terrorized for months leading up to her murder, with police unable to do anything. There weren't laws in place for the kinds of things Michelle was doing to her. They couldn't arrest her for calling Laurie's house or showing up to her job. Hazel vowed to fix this problem so that other women wouldn't have to face the kind of fear that her daughter had endured. Laurie's case and Hazel's campaign helped to push for stronger anti-stalking legislation. New laws were signed into effect in June 1993. Even still, it's hard to prosecute someone on stalking as it's hard to gather evidence on someone who is trying to remain hidden to you.
This case has seen its fair share of airtime. In February 1999, an hour-long 20/20 episode featured interviews with Michelle, herself, as well as several former classmates. It was also featured on season eight of American Justice in an episode titled "A Teenage Murder Mystery." It was adapted into a TV film called The Stalking of Laurie Show, known outside of the States as Rivals. Directed by Norma Bailey and starring Jennifer Finnigan as Laurie Show, the film has been accused of distorting the real story. It does take some creative liberties to make it more dramatic. With a story already so high in drama, there was no need to exaggerate at all.
In 2001, writer and journalist Lyn Riddle wrote the true crime book on this case, called Overkill. In 2016, Lisa Michelle Lambert actually paired up with writer David Wesley Brown to write the book Love, Murder, and Corruption in Lancaster County: My Story. This book apparently tells the story from Michelle's point of view, while she keeps her hands clean. She continues to push blame onto her accomplices, still hoping to prove her guilt as innocence. I have not read this book and do not plan on wasting my money.
The ripples that extended across a small community after this earth-shattering crime were far. A little girl grew up without a mother. A mother grew old without her little girl. An entire family was left to mourn at Christmas every year instead of celebrating. Two kids gave up their youth to the prison system, while the third and most devious of all gave her life to it. Most devastating of all, a promising young life was stolen away out of pure jealousy. Where would Laurie Show be today if she had been allowed to live? Why was the life of a girl that would've made the world a better place exchanged for the life of one that only made it worse?