Arrest made in GRACE Marketplace murder

Updated with information from Gainesville Police Department


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – James Fitzgerald Lawrence, 55, was booked into the Alachua County Jail yesterday on a charge of premeditated first degree murder.

According to accounts reportedly provided to a Gainesville Police Department (GPD) officer by two witnesses, Santonio Smith and another person were in a conversation near a cut in the fence of GRACE Marketplace at about 6:30 a.m. on August 5 when the victim joined the conversation. After reportedly being told that the conversation did not concern him, the victim reportedly cursed Smith, then Smith and the victim began wrestling, and Smith allegedly slammed the victim to the asphalt and began hitting him in his groin and torso.

Lawrence allegedly held the victim’s wrists, keeping him pinned to the ground while Smith allegedly continued to hit and kick him. The victim died on scene, and an autopsy reported that the death was a result of blunt force trauma. One of the witnesses reportedly said that Smith was the one who “did the killing.”

GPD officers responded at 7:50 a.m. to a report of a body outside GRACE Marketplace and began their investigation after determining that the circumstances surrounding the death were suspicious. That investigation led to yesterday’s arrest and is still ongoing.

Post Miranda, Lawrence denied any involvement in the incident. He has nine felony convictions, the most recent in 2016, and six state prison terms; he was last released in May of 2021. He has been designated a “Career Offender.” He is being held on $1 million bail.

In a press release, GPD said that attempts to locate and question Santonio (aka Tony) Smith have been unsuccessful. Anybody who has more information about this incident is asked to contact Alachua County Crime Stoppers at 352-372-7867, https://www.stopcrime.tv/, or GPD Detectives at 352-393-7670.

We have reached out to Gainesville Police Department for more information about whether Lawrence or Smith were residents of GRACE Marketplace. All address information was redacted from the arrest report.

Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

  • Lmao is it just me or is anybody else not surprised. Maybe it’s because I read the news everyday and see two or three stories a week from this place. Way to go commisioners! Build it and they will come you said, the only problem is you didn’t think about the drug addicts the drunks the violent career criminals the rapist or the mental basket cases it attracts to this beautiful shythole of a city you’ve created.

    • Could you provide links to the organizations you’ve founded or work with to improve the city? If those don’t apply, could you describe the measurable ways in which you’ve personally made an impact in the community? I see you post criticisms regarding the state of affairs here quite a lot and it would be valuable for us all to hear about the good works you must be a part of. Thank you in advance.

      • I work and Pay taxes Kenny, nuff said! Why don’t you leave the rich side of town I’m sure you live on and take you a nice stroll around the east side of Gainesville you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

      • Kenny posts this same thing over and over, word for word. I think Hayes-Santos’s mom wrote it for him. He gets a lollipop every time he posts it here.

      • BLM is buying fancy houses for themselves with the money that was donated to them instead of helping the community. What a shame.

      • Kenny: List the organizations and the things you are doing to help our community.…these good works you are doing make you a good candidate for public office!

      • I’m guessing T2024’s impact hasn’t had the degree of negativity on the community that residents of Grace Marketplace has had.

      • I know lots of non-profits of all kinds that do great work in our town that were started with little more than somebody’s hope to make the hard cold world a bit better place. But if you choose to live in a world of ugly seething racism around every corner that’s up to you and I truly feel sorry for you.

  • Close it down. It’s just helping lawyers and bail bondsmen get richer. While everybody else gets screwed.

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