Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Laurie Show

Tabitha and Butch's Stories

In the 1998 retrial, Tabitha Buck finally revealed the details of her version of that dark December morning. She swore that Michelle slit Laurie's throat once, then a second time make sure she was dead. It was, Tabitha said, as if Michelle were slicing bread — but for the rushing, wet noise as Laurie's blood drained out.

The night before the killing, Michelle and Tabitha had made breakfast plans. First, Michelle told her, they would stop by Laurie's; she warned Tabitha to wear her hair up and not to wear make-up or fingernail polish — in case anything went wrong. Butch dropped them off at a field near The Oaks Condominiums and the girls went inside. Once they were in the apartment, Michelle pulled out a butcher knife and lunged for Laurie; Tabitha said she tried to separate them. That gave Laurie an opportunity to make it into her bedroom, but not as far as the phone. Michelle caught her again and beat her with the blunt end of the knife. When Laurie reached for a pair of scissors, Tabitha kicked them out of her reach. And then Michelle demanded that Tabitha cut Laurie's throat. Tabitha refused. Laurie struggled; Michelle's knife scratched Laurie's hands and legs multiple times as the younger girl tried to get away. Tabitha blocked her escape, and Michelle stabbed Laurie, then went for the throat.

Russell Pugh
Russell Pugh

Or so Tabitha said. She offered this level of elaboration on her basic story only when Christina Rainville tried to get her to recant it. In 1996, Rainville wrote to Tabitha to try to persuade her that if she would change her testimony and help prove that Butch was the killer, she could get a new trial herself. Tabitha however refused the offer, and held fast to her original statement, saying that Butch was not present at the killing and did not participate in the crime. She contacted her own attorney, Russell Pugh, with her full confession. Michelle paid her back by suggesting that Tabitha had committed another murder while living in Alaska (which she left at the age of four) and that Tabitha's father, Alvin, abused her.

Lawrence "Butch" Yunkin always insisted he'd only dropped Tabitha and Michelle off, and that he did not enter the Shows' condo building. In exchange for a light sentence, he testified against Michelle. Dalzell found that Butch's 1992 statement was questionable, saying that the tape had been started and stopped at several points, and that police had rehearsed it with him; Butch's attorney, Doug Cody, denied this. Yunkin never changed his story; Michelle did, ultimately claiming that she had been protecting the man she feared and loved. Butch's family testified, too. His aunt, Jennifer Mowrer, said that Michelle had not only confided her plan to kill Laurie, but that she admitted the murder afterward. His mother, Jackie, testified that she'd found a poem in which Michelle described the murder.

But Michelle's attorney had a few more tricks, and she wasn't going to give up without playing them to the hilt.

 

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