Law enforcement officials allege that 52-year-old Mark Lavandowski of Pittsboro attempted to bribe a fellow inmate at the Chatham County jail by paying his bail and getting him to kill Lavandowski’s wife. Officials say a long trail of alcohol and abuse accusations led up to the alleged conspiracy attempt. Colin Warren-Hicks
Law enforcement officials allege that 52-year-old Mark Lavandowski of Pittsboro attempted to bribe a fellow inmate at the Chatham County jail by paying his bail and getting him to kill Lavandowski’s wife. Officials say a long trail of alcohol and abuse accusations led up to the alleged conspiracy attempt. Colin Warren-Hicks

Chatham County

He wanted his wife dead so he tried to hire a fellow inmate to do it, DA says

By Colin Warren-Hicks

December 07, 2017 06:00 AM


Prosecutors say a Chatham County man wanted his wife dead.

Chatham County law enforcement officals allege that 52-year-old Mark Lavandowski of Pittsboro attempted to bribe a fellow inmate at the Chatham County jail in mid-August and turn him into a hit man.

A grand jury indicted Lavandowski on felony charges of solicitation of first-degree murder and attempted obstruction of justice Oct. 2. He was being held in lieu of $2.5 million bail.

According to prosecutors, while incarcerated on Aug. 12, Lavandowski conspired to post bail for a fellow inmate if in return the then-freed inmate would kill Lavandowski’s wife, Diane.

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Chatham County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sara Pack said “the conspiracy was revealed by another inmate who then passed along that information to our deputies.”

Attempts to reach Diane Lavandowski for comment were unsuccessful.

Attempts to reach Mark Lavandowski’s attorney, Donald R. Dickerson, were unsuccessful.

Mark Lavandowski
Courtesy of the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office

Back to the beginning

The charges are the latest accusations leveled against Lavandowski in a four-month span that began with a domestic violence call on June 25.

Court filings describe Lavandowski as a white, brown-eyed man standing 5-foot-7 and weighing 200 pounds. He’s tattooed with depictions of a wizard, Harley-Davidson wings and a dragon.

On June 25, Lavandowski was removed from his 176 Victoria Drive home in Pittsboro and arrested by Chatham County Deputy Ty Edelman after a domestic violence call.

Lavandowski was accused of placing his wife in a choke hold and closing her windpipe until she neared unconsciousness before releasing his grip.

Arrest warrants say Lavandowski drew his fist back while telling his wife, “I want to punch you.”

Deputies observed redness on her throat.

He was charged and jailed. Bail was later set at $10,000.

“Mark put me in a chokehold from behind,” Diane Lavandowski wrote in court filings related to the June 25 incident. “I was unable to breathe and I felt I was going to pass out. He released me and I gasped and coughed to catch my breath.”

Mark Lavandowski posted bond by paying a bail bondsman $1,000 and was released on June 26.

His wife applied for a domestic violence protective order on June 27.

The application requires an applicant to list any observed past suicidal behavior exhibited by a defendant. Diane Lavandowski wrote, “Mark asked me to ‘Help kill me.’ I said ‘no’ and refused him.”

While Diane Lavandowski took part in the June 27 court hearing at which the protective order was granted, her husband returned to their house in violation of pretrial release conditions. Their adult son was inside the house.

Mark Lavandowski was observed repeatedly ringing door bells while switching between the front and the back entrances trying to get in. He allegedly gave up after 10 minutes.

It took Diane Lavandowski’s husband three days to violate that protective order, according to law enforcement. On June 30, he called her home phone and her cell phone twice.

A warrant was issued for his arrest.

He was arrested July 3 and the same day was ordered not to contact his wife, to stay at least one mile away from her, to wear a GPS monitoring device and abide by a curfew. He was jailed and his bail set at $100,000.

On July 12, he paid a bail bondsman $8,000. He was released under GPS monitoring conditions on July 17.

Mark Lavandowski didn’t always make curfew and deputies were dispatched to return him to jail on July 26, Chatham County Assistant District Attorney Marcella Trageser wrote in court documents.

Attempts to reach Trageser for comment were unsuccessful.

Deputies tracked him to a pub in Pittsboro, but management had already forced him to leave before they arrived, citing “recent drunken and rude behavior to people at the bar,” Trageser wrote.

But deputies did find him later that day drinking a Budweiser at a Siler City Mexican restaurant, where he was charged with violating his curfew and allowing his GPS monitoring device’s batteries to die.

A magistrate set bail at $10,000, court documents say, but did not require him to wear a GPS monitoring device. He paid a bondsman $1,000 and was released later that night, July 26.

A history of domestic violence

Diane Lavandowski was not the first woman to petition for placing a domestic violence order against her husband.

The Chatham-Orange County District Attorney’s office was contacted July 18 by a woman who lives in New York, Trageser wrote in a bond-modification motion.

That woman contacted the DA’s office for fear that Mark Lavandowski’s new troubles might prompt his return to New York, Trageser wrote.

The caller told the DA’s office when she’d reported her own experience of domestic violence in years past and Mark Lavandowski was subsequently charged with domestic violence that he’d fled from New York to West Virginia to escape prosecution – U.S. Marshals later extradited him – Trageser wrote.

Lavandowski and the female caller have one child together for which he owed $55, 918 in unpaid child support as of Aug. 4, according to court filings.

The concerned caller had been pregnant with twins, according to Trageser, when Mark Lavandowski assaulted her “and she subsequently lost one of the twins,” Trageser wrote.

Attempts to contact the reported victim from New York cited by Trageser were unsuccessful.

Drinking while driving

On July 28, a Chatham County sheriff’s deputy spotted a driver unable to maintain control of a car on Old Siler City Road.

The deputy pulled the car over and approached its driver’s window. Mark Lavandowski sat behind the wheel smelling of a “strong odor of alcohol,” according to an affidavit.

A Detention of Impaired Driver document on file states Mark Lavandowski had difficulty understanding and responding to questions, was excessively talkative and “giddy.” At one point, he attempted to high-five an arresting officer.

At 7:15 p.m., he recorded a blood alcohol level of .21 — well over twice the legal limit of .08 — on a Breathalyzer.

Mark Lavandowski was arrested and charged with driving while impaired, had his driver’s license revoked for 30 days, was jailed in lieu of $50,000 bail, paid a bondsman $5,000 and was released later that day.

At 9 p.m. Diane Lavandowski saw her husband in a neighbor’s driveway operating a Nissan Altima and therefore, in apparent violation of a protective order.

Back in jail

Mark Lavandowski was arrested for the July 28 protective order violation on Aug. 3 while leaving the Pittsboro Roadhouse & General Store and entering The Modern Life Deli and Drinks with his two sons, Trageser wrote.

The arresting officer reported to the magistrate that Lavandowski had failed to return his GPS charging unit to the Sheriff’s Office. He was charged with three domestic violence violations and misdemeanor larceny for keeping the charger.

Mark Lavandowski stands accused of an Aug. 12 charge of attempted purchase of assassination targeting Diane Lavandowski.

On Monday, Dec. 11 at 9 a.m. Mark Lavandowski is scheduled to appear in Chatham County Superior Court regarding the charges of solicitation to commit murder, obstruction of justice, two counts of assault by strangulation and two counts of assault on a female.

He is scheduled to appear again on Dec. 29 for the charges of drinking while driving, civil revocation, misdemeanor larceny, possession of an open container, failure to maintain lane control and six domestic violence protect order violations.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks