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Father of murdered woman describes struggles with her troubled marriage

Victim Lauren Charles' brilliance and advanced degrees did not insulate her from an abusive husband willing to kill, testimony in killer's trial showed.

ROCKVILLE, Md. — The devastated father of a Montgomery County woman killed by her husband in a horrible 2021 domestic violence attack urged families and friends to raise concerns when they see a victim struggling to come to terms with the truth.

John Charles Jr. spoke after a Montgomery County jury convicted 47-year old Reginald Dunlap Jr. of Kensington for murdering 40-year-old Lauren Charles and then attempting to cover up the crime scene and concoct an alibi by going to church.

"Reginald Dunlap is a predator. He has nothing inside of him but evil," John Charles said. "He killed the only person that actually the evidence showed loved him."

John's daughter Lauren was a beloved and highly accomplished attorney, former college admissions officer, and historic preservationist before her death in March of 2021 in the couple's home.

Evidence in the trial showed she had been beaten with a Buddha figurine and had a pillowcase stuffed down her throat by Dunlap. 

Investigators proved Lauren Charles died the night before Dunlap made his appearance in church, by finding health data on her phone had stopped logging hours before.

According to testimony in the case, Lauren Charles had come to the conclusion that she needed to end the couple's marriage and had given Dunlap until the end of the month to leave the home that she owned.

John Charles Jr. said his family, and his daughter's friends, had seen signs of trouble and had been gently supporting Lauren Charles as she moved toward divorce.

Montgomery County Special Victims Division prosecutor Debbie Feinstein spoke about the role friends and family can play when it appears a loved one is in an abusive relationship, struggling to face the truth.

“There had been emotional abuse, financial abuse, verbal abuse, gaslighting -  he would convince her of things that didn't happen," Feinstein said.

“When someone is experiencing domestic violence, the best kind of help that you can provide them is to wrap support around them, encourage them to get professional help to go to places like the Family Justice Center here in Montgomery County,” Feinstein continued.

"Telling them to leave is actually the exact opposite of what we should be saying. Because they're already in a power and control dynamic. And to have a friend or family come in and demand that they do something, will have them dig down even more.”

Feinstein said Lauren Charles was coming to terms with the support of family and friends but did not fear violence because Dunlap had never made threats.

“Everything in this case was done right. And that's part of what makes it such a tragedy. She was doing everything she could to get out of that relationship. And she was almost there. She had given him a deadline of the end of the month to get out of the house.”

According to testimony in the case, Lauren Charles owned all the couple's assets and he would be left with "less than nothing" if the marriage ended.

"He stood to profit from her death," Feinstein said.

Lauren Charles was a lawyer, with a master's degree in historic preservation, who grew up in New Orleans. She was the granddaughter of Earl A. Barthe, a renowned American architectural artist known nationally for his “Creole” craftsmanship in plaster. She spent time helping New Orleans neighbors recover in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Sentencing for Reginald Dunlap will be in July. Prosecutors will ask for life without parole.

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