ROCK HILL, SC – A man hailing from Rock Hill, South Carolina, could face a life sentence following the discovery of a charred body in a makeshift grave, as reported by The United States Attorney’s Office. The investigation has revealed the details of a violent relationship between Lawrence Joseph Florentine, 56, and Nicole Zahnd Florentine.
In the early months of 2019, Nicole made repeated calls to York County law enforcement, seeking emergency assistance. She reported that Lawrence had subjected her to physical abuse and issued chilling threats of death, burning, and burial. Although Lawrence was arrested twice on domestic violence charges, one of those charges was later dismissed at Nicole’s request before her tragic demise.
On May 23, 2020, their home was engulfed in flames, a fire that Lawrence intentionally ignited. During the inferno, he sent text messages and videos to Nicole, establishing his deliberate act, according to officials. At the scene, investigators found no personal belongings, cellphone, or identification but did discover a gas can concealed behind a tree near the burial site.
Witnesses reported sightings of a vehicle matching Lawrence’s description near the cemetery before the discovery of the body. A local hardware store clerk identified the sale transactions for a shovel and a gas can similar to the one found at the burial site, both purchased by an individual resembling Lawrence.
Surveillance footage from a nearby gas station captured Lawrence refilling the gas can shortly thereafter. Police also recovered a lighter and .22 caliber cartridges in his car’s center console, with Nicole’s blood found on the rear exterior of the abandoned vehicle.
Lawrence left Kentucky sometime after June 11, 2020, eventually arriving in Denver, Colorado. On June 23, 2020, he surrendered to Denver Police. Subsequently, he pleaded guilty in federal court to several charges related to the deadly domestic violence.
Now, Lawrence faces a potential maximum sentence of life in federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000, restitution, and eight years of post-imprisonment supervision. U.S. Attorney Boroughs emphasized the responsibility of addressing and preventing domestic violence while honoring Nicole’s memory.