A 30-year-old Birmingham man has been arrested in the July shooting death of Talladega lawyer Robert Blake Lazenby.
Ocie Lee Lynch was arrested late Tuesday night at a house in north Birmingham. Law-enforcement officials had said very little about their investigation after Lazenby was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds in his Sylacauga home. Lazenby's car had been found on fire in the Birmingham suburb of Tarrant.
Lazenby was a partner in Wooten Thornton Carpenter O'Brien Lazenby & Lawrence, perhaps the best known law firm in Talladega. A prominent figure on the statewide legal scene, Lazenby served on several boards for the Alabama State Bar through the 1990s until 2003.
Friends and professional colleagues described Lazenby as a nice guy and a top-notch lawyer. But that apparently was not the entire story. From one of our earlier reports:
Public documents . . . show that Lazenby's life had an element of disarray. He had about 10 speeding tickets on his record and twice was arrested for driving under the influence and driving with an open container. At the time of his death, Lazenby's most recent DUI was due to be heard in court on August 2.
We have reported that Lazenby was embroiled in his own divorce case at the time of this death. We also reported that the divorce apparently had become contentious in the months leading up to Lazenby's death. Geanne Elder Lazenby had moved repeatedly, without success, to have a Talladega County judge recuse himself from the case, on the grounds that her husband's firm frequently practiced before the court. Our research indicates that recusal is standard in such circumstances.
In possible retaliation, Blake Lazenby's lawyers had adopted what appear to be hardball tactics against Mrs. Lazenby. We covered these issues in a post dated September 28, 2011. It is titled "Did Hardball Tactics in a Divorce Case Lead to the Murder of an Alabama Lawyer?" From our report:
Legal Schnauzer has learned . . . that lawyers for Lazenby in his personal divorce case served curious subpoenas to non parties on July 15 and 18. The subpoenas sought information that seemed to have little or no relevance to matters in the divorce case--and they apparently amounted to hardball tactics in a divorce battle that clearly had grown rancorous since it hit the courts in 2008.
Just nine days after the subpoenas were served--and Lazenby's lawyers had filed a notice of discovery by interrogatories and requests for production of documents--their client's body was found in the dining room of his Sylacauga home. He died from multiple gunshot wounds, and his vehicle was found on fire in the Birmingham suburb of Tarrant.
Did the use of rough legal tactics--some might call them abusive--help lead to Blake Lazenby's murder? If I were a homicide detective on the case, I definitely would be asking that question.
Here are more specifics from our earlier report:
One of several curiosities in the case involved Geanne Lazenby's apparent inability to keep a lawyer for long. She went through a Who's Who of Birmingham-area divorce lawyers--Rick Fernambucq, Bruce Gordon, Charles Gorham, Mavanee Bear, Kristel N. Reed, and Gregory Yaghmi. Most of them filed a recusal motion and promptly exited the case, usually not waiting around for a ruling.
Here is another curiosity: The Birmingham firm of Smith Spires & Peddy made an appearance, on June 6, 2011--almost three years after the case had begun. SSP lawyers A. Joe Peddy and Tamera Erskine joined the fray on Blake Lazenby's behalf, even though neither they nor their firm appear to have experience in divorce law.
According to court documents, the tone of Lazenby v. Lazenby got particularly nasty when the SSP lawyers arrived on the scene:
They filed the subpoenas on non parties, and to our eyes, the documents appear to constitute a "fishing expedition," at best. At worst, they appear to have been used for nasty, strong-arm purposes. Who were recipients of the subpoenas, and what information was sought? Here is a summary:
* Custodian of Medical Records, Alabama Women's Specialist, Birmingham--All records pertaining to the treatment and/or diagnosis of Geanne E. Lazenby, including services rendered and financial records.
* Custodian of Medical Records, Craddock Clinic, Sylacauga--All records pertaining to the treatment and/or diagnosis of Geanne E. Lazenby, including services rendered and financial records.
* Custodian of Records, Coosa County Sheriff's Office--All police reports and investigative documents related to any allegations or claims made by Geanne E. Lazenby against Earnest Files, DOB: 10/31/1955.
Who on earth is Earnest Files? What did Ocie Lee Lynch have to do with any of this? Details about the arrest are sketchy at this hour. But an article from al.com indicates Lynch probably did not act alone. Does that mean Lynch was hired as a trigger man in a plot connected to the divorce case? It's too early to say, but our guess is that Blake Lazenby's death had something to do with his role as a party or a lawyer in a legal case:
Lynch is charged with capital murder in connection with the shooting death of 54-year-old Blake Lazenby, according to a press release issued by the Sylacauga Police Department today.
Lynch is being held in the Talladega County Jail without bond, according to the press release.
"We hope to be able to provide more information as the case against Lynch and other defendants involved develops," Chris M. Carden, interim Sylacauga police chief, stated in the press release.