Police: Westport man harassed women for years
WESTPORT — Local women haunted for years by a man they say would aggressively approach them at local stores and cafes are speaking out after his arrest earlier this month.
Westporter Wendy Chambers said after reading reports of the arrest of James Lawrence in the media last week, she wanted to come forward with her story.
Since 2002 Lawrence was logged by Westport police in 10 incidents where women felt harassed by him, but in each case, they felt afraid to pursue charges against him for fear of retaliation, according to court documents.
Lawrence has a record of arrests outside of Connecticut, including resisting arrest and fleeing/eluding police in Florida and, in California, he was charged with petty theft, theft of personal property, stalking, inflicting corporal injury to spouse and battery of a spouse.
Recounting her encounter, Chambers said a man introduced himself to Chambers at Westport Stop and Shop around 7:30 p.m. in January as James Laurentis and gave her a card with his alleged name and a link to an “obscure” website, she told the Westport News.
After leaving the Stop and Shop, Chambers said the man followed her to her car.
“He showed up in front of my car and scared the crap out of me. He said he wanted to go out with me and I said I didn’t want to go out with him,” Chambers said, adding, “He’s a creep.”
On Feb. 15 Chambers said she saw the man again at the Westport Stop and Shop in the evening and the following day at the Whole Foods Market in Norwalk around lunchtime. On both occasions, Chamber says she avoided the man.
Around the same time, Chambers’ said her trainer told her a man tried to pick her up at the Whole Foods Market in Darien. Chambers showed her trainer the LinkedIn photo associated with the business card of the man who followed her at Stop and Shop and the trainer confirmed it was the same man who followed her, Chambers said.
Chambers recognized the man in another photo, one published on the Westport News website on March 12 in conjunction with the arrest report for town resident James Lawrence.
“He’s got a different name than on the card he gave me,” Chambers concluded.
Lawrence, 52, was arrested on charges of breach of peace after he allegedly followed a woman around the Fresh Market on Post Road East and then out to her car on Nov. 5, police said.
Police issued an arrest warrant for Lawrence and on March 5 he turned himself in to police and was released after posting a $5,000 court set bond. He is next scheduled to appear in Norwalk Superior Court on May, 4.
In court documents, Officer James Sullivan, who was charged with investigating the case, writes Lawrence is cited in 10 other incidents logged in the Westport case history from 2002 until present.
“In all of these complaints, Lawrence was seen following the complainants around a store or coffee shop and then following them out to their cars where he would either stare at them or get right into their personal space. In most of these cases, Lawrence was told his actions scared the complainants to the point of them calling the police,” Sullivan wrote.
A criminal history search of Lawrence turned up no criminal history in Connecticut, but revealed Lawrence’s arrests in Florida and California.
In the Nov. 5 case, the complainant would not provide a sworn statement for fear that Lawrence would find her and retaliate, Sullivan wrote. “I also learned that in all the nine other cases that the complainants all felt the same way. That they all feared for their safety and because of this were reluctant to provide statements,” Sullivan wrote.
The number of cases involving Lawrence isn’t surprising, Chambers said. After the March 12 article about Lawrence’s arrest was published she dropped the article off at the Whole Foods in Norwalk and said all the employees knew him. “A woman who saw me show the article to the manager said he’s tried to pick her up twice at Darien Whole Foods,” Chambers said.
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