Details of Disappearance Lauryn lived with her three-year-old brother and their mother, Shakara Dickens, at the Raleigh Village Apartments in the 4900 block of Yale Road in Memphis, Tennessee at the time of her disappearance.
Shakara stated that at 11:00 a.m. on September 7, 2010, she gave Lauryn to a strange woman who claimed to be a friend of Lauryn's father, Benjamin Norfleet, who was in jail at the time. Photos of Lauryn's parents are posted with this case summary.
Shakara aid the woman came to her because she'd told Norfleet she could no longer care for Lauryn. The woman said she would take care of Lauryn until Norfleet was released from jail.
Shakara described the woman as Caucasian, with shoulder-length straight gray hair parted in the center. She was in her forties and had glasses. She wore a white button-down blouse, khaki capri pants and white closed-toe sandals.
Shakara admitted she gave Lauryn to the woman without asking for any contact information or even the woman's name. She said she never saw Lauryn or the woman again.
In the days following Lauryn's disappearance, Shakara went out to a nightclub with her friends, bought new clothes and altered an existing tattoo on her back. She didn't report Lauryn as a missing child until September 15, more than a week after her disappearance. Her mother, Tracey Dickens, insisted on it and brought her to the police station when they realized Lauryn was missing.
The police were immediately suspicious of her story and asked Norfleet for corroboration. Norfleet said he never sent anyone to pick up Lauryn and didn't even know any women matching the description Shakara gave.
He stated he hadn't spoken to Shakara since late August; beginning on September 1, she suddenly started blocking his calls without explanation. He tried to call her seven times in twelve days and each time his number was blocked.
No one besides Shakara reported having seen Lauryn after September 6. Shakara also gave inconsistent explanations for Lauryn's disappearance; at one point, she claimed the baby was with Norfleet's parents, and another time she said she had put her up for adoption.
Cadaver dogs indicated the presence of human remains in Lauryn and Shakara's apartment and in the car Shakara drove. A week after Shakara reported Lauryn's disappearance, she was charged with aggravated child neglect, child endangerment and false reporting.
Court documents stated the police believed Lauryn was deceased. In January 2011, Shakara was charged with first-degree murder.
At Shakara's trial in March 2012, Tracey, Norfleet and a cellmate of hers were some of the witnesses who testified against her.
The cellmate claimed Shakara broke down during a religious sermon in jail and said "God would not forgive me for what I've done" and that she had done "what I was in for." Authorities also found a poem she had written in her cell which they characterized as an admission of guilt.
Shakara's defense attorney argued that there was a total lack of physical evidence and insufficient proof that she had harmed or killed her baby. She was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, second-degree murder, child neglect and filing a false report. She had no prior convictions.
In June 2012, as part of an agreement with prosecutors, Shakara admitted her guilt in Lauryn's death. She stated she smothered the baby because she was frustrated by her crying, then put her body in a trash bin, which was emptied a few days later.
She said she was stressed at the time because her work hours had changed and she couldn't find a babysitter, and expressed remorse for her actions. Shakara was sentenced to nineteen years in prison. She could have faced up to fifty-four years.
Lauryn's body has never been located. Foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.
- Memphis Police Department
Updated 4 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated June 27, 2012; details of disappearance updated.