ST. LOUIS COUNTY — A homeless man fatally beat another with a baseball bat at a Maryland Heights hotel and called police to confess to the crime, charges say.
James A. Lawson, 30, whose last known address is a rehabilitation clinic in Wood River, was charged Saturday with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the beating death of Ardie Knighten.
Charges say Lawson called police Friday from a hospital in St. Louis to report that two days earlier he had struck someone twice with a baseball bat at the Comfort Inn-St. Louis Westport hotel at 12031 Lackland Road in Maryland Heights and that that person may be dead.
Lawson told a police sergeant that he hit the man because that man had come to his room with an unspecified weapon.
Knighten, 43, of the 4600 block of Iowa Avenue in St. Louis, died of blunt force trauma to the head, police and charges say. Lawson had checked into the room Feb. 10 and paid for two nights. While checking in, a witness reported seeing Lawson holding a baseball bat, which police found in the room.
Lawson fled the hotel after the killing and later told hospital staff that he needed to talk to police “because he did something,” charges say. Lawson also sent his family a text message telling them they wouldn’t hear much from him anymore because he’d be in jail.
Lawson left the hospital Saturday and police later found him and took him into custody, charges say. Lawson is being held at the St. Louis County jail in lieu of a $500,000 bail.
He did not yet have a lawyer, according to court records. Lawson’s criminal history includes assault cases in Massachusetts.