Husband confesses to hiding wife's body in drum of acid

Published: Jun. 14, 2010 at 3:51 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 14, 2010 at 5:33 PM EDT
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Lisa Gaudenzi
Lisa Gaudenzi
Lawrence Gaudenzi
Lawrence Gaudenzi

CAROLINE, VA (WWBT) –  The family of a Caroline County woman will get some closure after she went missing in 1995.

Lawrence Gaudenzi, 45, told investigators the death of his wife Lisa was an accident.

He says he then put her body in a sleeping bag, then a drum, poured acid on her and buried her in a rural part of Spotsylvania County.

Despite Lisa's body never being found, he pleaded guilty in the midst of his trial in May 2009 and is currently serving a 25-year sentence for second degree murder. Last week, Lawrence Gaudenzi led investigators to where he hid her body in Spotsylvania County more than 15 years ago. On Saturday, state police special agents met with her parents to deliver the last of her remains.

"Despite the age of this case and the considerable obstacles encountered throughout the investigation, the special agents of the Virginia State Police Richmond Field Office remained committed to not only bringing a murderer to justice, but to also making sure a family had the closure they so desperately needed and deserved," said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent.

Lisa Gaudenzi's case began with a missing person's report filed by her husband in January 1995 with the Caroline County Sheriff's Office. Lawrence last saw his wife Jan. 26, 1995, when he said he dropped her off at the bus station in Richmond for a ride to Petersburg. Lisa was active-duty with the U.S. Army and was to take a bus to Fort Lee to report for officers training. Investigators later determined there was no such bus scheduled that day.

Two years later the sheriff's office requested the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation's Richmond Field Office to take over the investigation into Lisa's disappearance. By this time, the U.S. Army had declared her Absent Without Leave (AWOL) and dishonorably discharged her. As soon as state police was handed the investigation, Lawrence suddenly disappeared and took the couple's infant daughter with him. State police then found themselves searching for three individuals.

In 2002, NBC12 featured Lisa's disappearance as part of a special cold case series. A tip from a viewer led investigators to Harrisonburg. On June 14, 2002, state police found Lawrence Gaudenzi there working at a discount retailer. After fleeing Caroline County, Lawrence had assumed the identity of Randy Evans, a Richmond homeless man who has not been seen since 1998. Gaudenzi also changed the daughter's first and last name in order to conceal their identities. In Rockingham County, state police charged Gaudenzi with forgery.

Even though the discovery of Lawrence did not provide any new evidence or leads in Lisa's case, state police investigators were able to reunite the couple's daughter with Lisa's parents. The grandparents had not seen their grandchild since Lisa's disappearance seven years earlier.

But state police persisted in their search for Lisa, as well as began looking into what happened to Evans. The homeless man's disappearance was also being treated as a homicide investigation.

In 2008, state police were able to make significant headway with several witnesses, who had previously been too scared of Lawrence to come forward and provide key information in the case. Substantial progress was made in getting closer to being able to finally charge Lawrence in Lisa's disappearance and presumed death.

On May 16, 2008, Lawrence was arrested and charged in Caroline County with the murder of Lisa Gaudenzi. Three days into his trial, which began May 5, 2009, Lawrence agreed to plead guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years. He is currently being held at the Augusta Correctional Center in Augusta County.

But for state police investigator, Special Agent J.R. "Doc" Lyons, the case was still not closed. The bodies of Lisa Gaudenzi and Randy Evans had never been found.

"I kept after Lawrence about where he left Lisa because her parents and children deserved to have that closure," said Special Agent Lyons at a press conference today in Richmond. "I had to be persistent for the family."

Lyons' determination paid off on the afternoon of June 9. Lawrence finally agreed to show investigators exactly where he hid Lisa's body. The Virginia Department of Corrections transported Lawrence to Caroline County and he guided investigators to a remote area off of Massaponax Church Road in Spotsylvania County.

Despite the field having been clear-cut a year before, investigators were still able to find remnants of the sleeping bag Lawrence had used to wrap Lisa's body in after he killed her at their house in Caroline County the night of Jan. 26, 1995. Investigators also found several plastic bottles of brick-washing acid that Lawrence had discarded at the scene. He had put the sleeping bag inside a metal drum and then filled the drum with the powerful acid.

When investigators arrived last week the drum was no longer there. After five hours of sifting through the soil in search of potential bone fragments, investigators found the only remains left at the scene - Lisa's porcelain dental bridge. It took the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner less than 10 minutes to confirm the dental plate belonged to Lisa Gaudenzi. Lisa's case was finally closed.

The investigation and search for Randy Evans remains ongoing.

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