Warning: this post contains distressing and graphic content.
A father has admitted to beating his twenty-one moth old daughter to death because he was jealous of the attention she received after surviving a rare form of eye cancer.
Maddox Lawrence. Via Facebook.
By all accounts, Maddox Lawrence was a loved and cherished baby. Her young parents, Ryan and Morgan Lawrence, worked a cobbled together assortment of jobs to make ends meet for their baby daughter.
Lawrence, 25 and his wife Morgan, 23, from New York were described by friends as 'devoted and loving'. They were always together. Always with their daughter.
The kind of couple you imagined would never be apart.
Ryan Lawrence was "devoted" to his daughter, Maddox. Via Facebook.
Ryan Lawrence and his wife, Morgan, had met when they were in college and had married when Morgan fell pregnant.
Ryan, who worked delivering pasties, usually always had his baby daughter with him in the mornings while his wife slept.
His boss told Syracuse.com that not once did he leave her in the car, instead, he'd carry her with one arm and the boxes of pastries under the other as he did his morning run before dawn.
Its just one example of what a loving father he was. Kind. Thoughtful. Hard working.
The pair were devastated when Maddox was diagnosed with a cancer in her retina. For months they would drive Maddox into New York City, where she underwent hours-long chemotherapy treatments targeted directly at the tumour.
The treatments, targeting the tumour in her eye and the blood vessels feeding it lasted as long as six hours and by her side each and every time was Ryan and Morgan.
Morgan and Maddox. Via Go Fund Me.
On February 20, Ryan dropped his wife at the clothing shop she worked in at 4pm. She was due to be picked up again at 10pm but Ryan and Maddox never showed up.
Instead, Ryan Lawrence left the car for his wife with the keys in it. When she got home she found a note indicating he might harm himself and their baby.
She was missing.
Police put out a report and for two days they searched.
Media reports broadcasting details of the missing baby girl flooded the airwaves. Maddox was wearing a white top with brown puppies and a pink collar, with pink long pants and blue coat with a pink lining.
An amber alert went out.
Morgan appeared on the news desperate, pleading.
“If you're listening, please just bring Maddox home. Maddox I love you, honey," she said sobbing.
"Ryan, please, just please call. We just want to know that the both of you are safe."
Three days later her father was spotted in a mall. He was wearing a wig and makeup but after being question as to whether he was Ryan Lawrence he removed the wig saying “You got me.”
He was arrested and taken in for questioning.
He admitted killing Maddox. Via Facebook.
Finally, hours after insisting he had nothing to do with her death he confessed and police divers recovered Maddox’s body from Syracuse's Inner Harbor.
Ryan had driven Maddox to a secluded waterfall where they had liked to hike. He had beaten her to death with a baseball bat then burned her body for three hours in a fire put before dumping her remains in the body of water.
Ryan Lawrence told police he prayed before killing Maddox, saying, "God, if I am not meant to kill her, make her stumble."
What has puzzled investigators is what caused this loving father to beat his 21-month-old to death?
The Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick said that the motive may have been jealousy. That Ryan was jealous of the attention Maddox had been receiving after her cancer diagnosis.
“[Mr Lawrence’s] statements allude to almost a sense of jealousy about the attention that this child was getting as opposed to the attention that he was getting,” Mr Fitzpatrick told CBS 5 News.
But other news sources say the family had been battling financial troubles.
In the statement to Syracuse.com Ryan's sister, Charissa Lawrence, said they were having difficulty reconciling the father they knew loved his daughter so much with the actions undertaken.
"What we saw of Ryan is that he loved Maddox immensely and so we are struggling to make sense out of this tragedy," she said, “But we are not successful and know that we will never be."
Maddox was 21-months-old. Via Facebook.
Now Ryan Lawrence has pleaded guilty to killing Maddox.
With Morgan sitting in the court room the judge read a detailed description of what Ryan did to their daughter before saying that as a part of the plea deal, he will be given a 25-year-to-life sentence with no right to appeal.
His devastated mother sobbed as she heard the man she once intended to spend her life with pleading guilty to killing their daughter.