Another twist in the case came when Deana Finnegan, in 2012, requested the case file be retrieved from storage with a company in Saginaw County, where the court stocks older case files.

Missing from the file were the four pages that included Lana Lawrence’s testimony in circuit court. Finnegan was able to restore the testimony from documents provided by Lana Lawrence, who, along with The Washington Post obtained the entire case file in 1987 for a piece she wrote for the publication regarding her childhood abuse.

Lauri Braid, who has been Shiawassee County Clerk since 2001, said she has never come across documents missing from files.

“I was very surprised and dismayed that that happened,” she said. She worked along with Finnegan to restore the testimony. “I hate to think somebody would have specifically taken something out of there, I just don’t have an explanation for it.”

Braid said it was “very unlikely” documents were lost in the transfer to storage, the timing of which is unknown.

“They’re put in boxes, the whole file. The boxes are sealed up and they’re either taken upstairs in the attic or we have another local storage site. Again, that’s locked up,” she said.

Lana Lawrence said the situation was not the first time documents appeared to be missing from her case file.

When The Washington Post in 1987 requested the case file through the Freedom of Information Act, two pages of the circuit court arraignment in which the plea deal was struck were not provided. Those documents were present, however, when Finnegan requested the file.

Braid said one explanation for that could have been an error made in copying the documents. Files from that era were printed on “onion paper,” which could have stuck together when the court made copies for The Post, she said.

Because at the time there was no documentation of who views public records, no investigation was conducted.

Braid said as a result of this case, the clerk’s office has changed the procedure for viewing public records. Those who access files must now sign them out.

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(2) comments

Sara Collins

Hurrah to Deana Finnegan for her wisdom and integrity in this effort to expose these ghastly errors and to bring justice for a woman so wronged in childhood.

LMP

I know for a fact that these pages were not lost in copying because I was present when the requested records were given to Lana Lawrence by the Washington Post and then had to be requested again because we thought that there must have been a "clerical error." Again, they came back "missing."
Thank you, Lauri Braid, for tightening up the procedures regarding the accountability of those who access these precious public records. You responded in a very professional manner when recently given the complete and accurate certified copy that finally contained all the pages. We can now be confident that the records will remain complete or someone's name will be on record as having accessed them. Linda Palmer

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