Murder Charges Dropped in Longbranch Deaths

Lisa Bryan, KP News Cory Nathan Mason, 28, was released from Pierce County jail April 1 after nearly 14 months in custody awaiting trial for two counts of second-degree murder. Mason shot and killed Beth Hamlin-Slawson, 25, and her husband Lukas Slawson, 35, in the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 2018, at the home of Beth’s parents in the 5500 block of Whiteman Road SW in Longbranch.

Mason said he acted in self-defense. (“Parents Killed in Longbranch Double Homicide,” KP News, March 2018).

The shooting occurred at 2:30 a.m. outside the home where Mason lived with his 18-year-old girlfriend and her parents, who are also the parents of Beth Hamlin-Slawson, according to prosecuting attorney Kawyne A. Lund’s motion and order for dismissal filed with the Superior Court for Pierce County.

“Washington law on self-defense provides a killing is justified if a defendant reasonably feared imminent death or great personal injury at the time of the killing,” Lund wrote in the court document. “A defendant is entitled to act on what he perceives and at the time believes in good faith and on reasonable grounds, that he or another is in actual danger, even if afterward it was learned he was mistaken as to the extent of danger.”

According to the prosecutor’s office, the confrontation began after a heated exchange of social media messages between Mason and Beth over the purchase of a gun and alleged abuse by Mason of his girlfriend, Beth’s younger sister. The KP News is not naming the sister since she may be the victim of domestic violence.

Beth and her husband, Lukas, drove to the residence and unexpectedly encountered Mason in a car driven by Beth’s mother, Lisa Hamlin.

They aggressively tailgated the car to Lisa’s home, according to prosecutors. A time-stamped surveillance video showed both vehicles rapidly pulling into the driveway and Beth running from her car to the car Mason was in, and confronting him with a sledgehammer.

Lisa immediately got out and attempted to restrain her daughter as she beat the car with the sledgehammer. While the women struggled, Mason moved to the driver’s seat and drove the car about 50 feet away.

At the same time, Beth’s husband produced a pistol and fired at least 10 rounds at the front and back of another vehicle, a pickup truck belonging to Mason.

When Mason got out of Lisa’s car, he was immediately confronted again by Beth, who had broken free of her mother’s grasp but lost the sledgehammer. Mason drew his own pistol and shot her once in the chest.

The surveillance video showed about 15 seconds between Mason moving the car and shooting Beth.

Given the darkness, the speed of events, Beth’s aggressive focus on Mason, and the fact that Mason was in the car when she was disarmed while Lukas was firing his weapon, the prosecutor’s office concluded it could not show beyond a reasonable doubt that Mason was unaware Beth was unarmed at the time he shot her.

Mason can be heard in the background of a 911 call after the incident, saying to a witness, “Did you not hear the gunshots shooting at us? Oh my God! Thought Beth was the one shooting!”

The video also showed Lukas moving toward Mason after Mason shot Beth. The video is distorted by the glare of the car’s headlights, but Lukas can be seen pointing his gun at Mason.

Mason’s girlfriend, Beth’s sister, told prosecutors she was afraid Lukas was going to shoot Mason and stood in front of Mason to protect him.

The video then shows Lukas running toward the house with an apparent gunshot wound to the chest. Mason later said he shot Lukas in self-defense. The medical examiner’s report described Lukas’s injury “as a ‘contact type’ wound, indicating the two men were close at the time of the shot.”

“Based on the precipitate actions that led to this chaotic incident, it was reasonable for (Mason) to believe he was being attacked with a sledgehammer and that the gunfire was directed at him. Given the available evidence, the state cannot disprove self-defense, and dismissal of these criminal charges is appropriate,” according to a statement issued by the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office April 2.