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MADISONVILLE, KY – On June 13, 2020, at approximately 6:33 p.m. (CT) the Kentucky State Police (KSP) Post 2 was requested by the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office to investigate human remains located in a shallow grave on Hill Cemetery road in Fredonia, KY.

Evidence obtained in the investigation revealed beginning in December 2019, police in York County, South Carolina, responded to multiple 911 calls by Nicole Rene Florentine, during which she reported that her husband, Lawrence Florentine, physically abused her and threatened to kill her, burn her, and bury her. Lawrence Florentine was arrested twice on domestic violence charges. On May 23, 2020, the couple’s Rock Hill home was destroyed by fire. During the fire, Lawrence Florentine sent angry text messages and photographs that showed he intentionally set the property on fire to destroy Nicole’s belongings. Arson charges are pending in South Carolina state court. 

On June 13, 2020, a groundskeeper for Hill Cemetery in Fredonia, Kentucky, discovered what appeared to him to be a makeshift grave. Deputies with the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office and the Kentucky State Police recovered a partially charred female body from the grave. A gas can was found near the grave. An autopsy determined that Nicole’s death was a homicide, and the cause of death was a .22 caliber bullet wound to the head. This portion of the investigation was led by Post 2 Detective Jacob Fortney.

Nicole and Florentine were traveling by car together in North and South Carolina in the days leading up to the discovery of her body in Kentucky. Eyewitnesses reported seeing a vehicle matching the description of Florentine’s car around the cemetery before the body was discovered on June 13, 2020. A local hardware store clerk described Florentine as the man who came into the store on June 11, 2020, and after he complained about the $21.99 price, he purchased a gas can and a shovel. Security camera footage from a nearby gas station showed Florentine casually filling the gas can a short time later. Florentine’s sentence included a 10-year consecutive sentence because he used fire during the commission of interstate domestic violence. 

Florentine fled Kentucky and arrived in Denver, Colorado, on June 23, 2020, where he was arrested. During travel, Florentine discarded and concealed evidence, including the firearm he used to murder Nicole, cell phones, identification, and other personal belongings. During sentencing, prosecutors asked Judge Coggins to impose a higher sentence considering everything Florentine did to obstruct justice, including his deliberate efforts to hide Nicole’s death by hiding her body, frustrating law enforcement’s ability to identify her, and their ability to locate and arrest him. Judge Coggins noted that in addition to killing her, Florentine deliberately prevented Nicole’s family from learning of her death and that he deprived them of the opportunity to mourn her properly.

Lawrence Joseph Florentine, 56, of Rock Hill, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for interstate domestic violence resulting in the death of his wife, Nicole Zahnd Florentine, use of a firearm during a crime of violence, obstruction of justice and use of fire to commit interstate domestic violence. 

“Nicole’s senseless murder reminds us that domestic violence can happen to anyone, and we all must work to protect and support those experiencing abuse,” said Adair F. Boroughs, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina. “We hope this sentence brings closure to her loved ones as they remember Nicole.”

In 2022, two years after his arrest, Florentine moved to dismiss the murder charge and argued that Kentucky did not have jurisdiction to prosecute him because the crime was committed in South Carolina. Prosecutors in Caldwell County, Kentucky, and homicide investigators with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office asked federal authorities to prosecute the case. Domestic violence is primarily a matter of state and local jurisdiction; however, federal laws provide tools for prosecuting domestic violence offenders in certain situations involving firearms and interstate travel or activity.

United States District Judge Donald C. Coggins sentenced Florentine to 360 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. Florentine was also ordered to pay $5,800 in restitution.

KSP Post 2 Captain Derek Smith said he was proud of the contribution his detective provided.

“Detective Fortney, along with other investigators from our post, worked alongside local and federal partners to provide important evidence that led to a successful prosecution of this case,” said Captain Smith. “I am proud of his dedication to this investigation and the closure it brought to the Florentine family.”  The case was investigated by Kentucky State Police Post 2 Detectives. KSP was assisted by the Caldwell County, Kentucky Sheriff’s Office, Greenville County, South Carolina Sheriff’s Office, York County, South Carolina Sheriff’s Office, Rock Hill Police Department, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 



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