By AMY LINDBLOM
The search is over for a man who failed to show up in court last week for a sentencing hearing.
The body of Wesley Lawrence, 45, was found yesterday along Highway 108 about a mile from his Longeway Road home. It appeared he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head, said Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department spokesman Lt. John Steely.
A woman spotted the body after she stopped along the highway about 100 feet from Hidden Acres Road to help a friend whose vehicle had broken down.
Tracy Watts, 41, of Twain Harte said she saw her friend and his truck on the south shoulder of the road as she was driving home from work. She stopped to see if she could help him out.
She noticed a strong odor and looked over the south side of the road, where she saw a body face down about 20 feet down a short hill.
Sheriff's investigators quickly converged on the area and made a preliminary identification from Lawrence's drivers license in his pocket. Fingerprints taken later at a mortuary confirmed their suspicions, Steely said.
A jury convicted Lawrence on May 30 of assault with a firearm and shooting at an occupied dwelling. He fired 16 rounds from a .45 caliber semi-automatic into Ahearn's Towing shop about midnight on March 4, 2002. Lawrence's house is about 200 feet from Ahearn's.
No one was injured in the shooting, but a part-time employee was asleep inside the office on a couch and had to duck for cover.
Earlier that day, Lawrence had confronted shop owner George Ahearn, accusing him of asking animal control officers to take away Lawrence's dog. Ahearn testified Lawrence made threats that he was going to make Ahearn "pay for this."
He could have faced 18 years in prison when he was to be sentenced last Thursday by Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge Eric DuTemple
When Lawrence failed to show up for court, Lawrence's brother and sister-in-law, who were in court that day, went to Lawrence's house to check on him.