`It's so much pressure'

As a Brooklyn Park family tries to heal from a tragic death, financial burdens left behind seem too much to bear

May 30, 2007|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to The Sun

Two days after Lesa Lawhorn Thamby was stabbed to death, her minivan was repossessed.

Her stunned family recovered it for $1,500, but since then has discovered other unpaid debts, including a $1,400 utility bill.

That's just the beginning of the financial burden. Medical bills from Thamby's medical treatment are still arriving. Then there's the $1,400 monthly mortgage for the two-story brick house in Brooklyn Park.

But the emotional deficit likely will be the toughest obstacle they will face.

Thamby's three children were home when their father allegedly killed Thamby, 35, on May 5, according to police. Anne Arundel County police charged Soman Narayanan Thamby, 50, with second-degree murder.

The children, in the custody of their grandmother, Maybelle Lawhorn, occasionally blurt out details of that night. Jewel, 2, rarely leaves her grandmother's side, said Mikel Lawhorn, Lesa Thamby's brother.

"I think she's afraid that someone's going to take her away," Mikel Lawhorn said.

Before the emotional healing can begin, the family had to get temporary custody of the children, which they did on May 21. On Friday, they will meet with social services to arrange for Medicaid and Social Security benefits.

The Lawhorns need at least $5,000 for an estate lawyer to settle Lesa Thamby's affairs, so they can sell her house. The family plans to contest Soman Thamby's right to the property.

"It's so much pressure," said Mikel Lawhorn of Pasadena. "You're trying to get through the grieving process, and you have to deal with this."

Family and friends have been trying to raise money for the three children -- Jewel, 5-year-old Jacob and 10-year-old Justin -- and their dog, Bruno. A fundraiser on May 12 at Fibber McGee's Irish Pub in Pasadena raised $400. Donors have contributed an additional $400 to a trust fund set up at M&T Bank. Lawhorn's employer, Liberty Transportation in Columbia, has pledged $3,200. Charles Mangum, a family friend in Baltimore, has scheduled a bull roast benefit July 27 at La Fontaine Bleu in Glen Burnie. So far, more than 300 people have bought the $35 tickets.

Mangum said he wants to make sure the children get everything they need. Maybelle Lawhorn, 69, has diabetes and high blood pressure. She is living on Social Security.

"Raising three young children is going to be tough for her," Mangum said. "I just want to see them get some help."

Mikel Lawhorn took a jar and sat outside Lauer's store in Riviera Beach to collect donations. By doing that and collecting at his sons' lacrosse games, he has brought in $500. Lawhorn said he isn't sure how much money he family will need.

"What is the going rate for raising three kids?" he said.

The Lawhorns don't know what set off the argument that night. The couple had been under a financial strain. Soman Thamby, 50, was a cook at Shady Grove Hospital and worked part-time at Walgreen's.

Lesa Thamby ran a day care business from their home, but she had to accept fewer children after health problems developed two years ago, Mikel Lawhorn said.

Doctors told her that her severe headaches were caused by fluid buildup around her brain and implanted a shunt to drain the fluid. Lesa Thamby later had to undergo several minor surgeries to repair problems.

Court records show that Thamby had sought a protective order against her husband in county District Court in March. Maybelle Lawhorn said her daughter moved in next door because Soman Thamby had slapped her during an argument.

Although Thamby could be jealous and possessive, the family thought that had been the only incident, Maybelle Lawhorn said.

"What happened behind closed doors, we didn't know," she said.

Mikel Lawhorn said he talked his sister out of showing up for the court hearing in April because he thought it would be better for the kids if the couple tried to work it out.

Lawhorn had become close to his brother-in-law. Soman Thamby promised that he would seek counseling for anger management and swore that he wouldn't hurt his wife, Lawhorn said.

Lesa Thamby returned home. The family took a trip to Ocean City. Everything seemed fine, Lawhorn said.

The night of the Lesa's death, Maybelle Lawhorn said she heard noise coming from the house and looked out the window just in time to see her daughter trying to escape through the front door. She said Soman Thamby pulled her daughter back inside.

Lawhorn tried to enter the home, but her son-in-law locked it. She rushed to the windows and began to bang on them. Lawhorn then ran back to her house and called the police.

Lesa Thamby died on the way to the hospital. At the funeral, Lesa's friends told Lawhorn that she had been abused before.

"I've got a lot of guilt issues," Lawhorn said. "I would have never guessed that would happen."

When the children go to bed, the sadness sets in, Maybelle Lawhorn said. A lot of nights, she keeps Justin up for a little while.

From the way the children played on Sunday afternoon, it would be hard to tell that anything had happened to their parents.

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