Kody Lott is behind bars for murdering 13-year-old Lauren Landavazo and shooting her friend, Makayla Smith, while they were walking home in Wichita Falls, Texas.
On the afternoon of Sept. 2, 2016, Lauren and Makayla caught up with each other once school ended and began walking home together. They were both eighth-grade students at McNiel Middle School.
As they walked, they talked “about how they didn’t have any classes together that year,” the Times Record News reported.
When they reached an alleyway off Kingston Drive, Lauren began to veer off in another direction. She was supposedly going to meet up with her boyfriend.
But before she could reach her destination, a gold SUV pulled up with the driver’s side window facing Lauren.
“I remember he stopped, and we all just kind of stopped walking,” Makayla testified. “We made eye contact for a few seconds.”
The driver of the vehicle pulled out a gun and opened fire, shooting Lauren and Makayla before fleeing the scene.
“I got hit,” Makayla said. “I thought I got hit in the middle of my chest because I couldn’t breathe.
“I had to sit down because I couldn’t keep standing. I was feeling my blood run down my chest and down my stomach.”
While on the ground, she noticed Lauren was also on the ground. She could see her feet, and she wasn’t moving. Makayla called out to her, but there was no response.
She pulled out her cell phone and called her mother. Meanwhile, residents in the area were running to their aid.
Emergency responders arrived at the scene and placed Makayla on a gurney. As they were taking her to the ambulance, she saw a white sheet over her friend.
Lauren did not survive her injuries, and she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Makayla was transported to an area hospital, where she was treated and later released.
An autopsy showed that Lauren had been shot 14 times: twice in the head, both hands, chest, liver, spinal column, shoulders, and other areas; 10 of the bullets were fatal.
After learning of Lauren’s death, Wichita Falls Independent School District Superintendent Michael Kuhrt released the following statement: “As a district, we are saddened by this senseless act of violence, and our thoughts and prayers are with all of those involved.”
In Lauren’s obituary, her relatives wrote the following: “Lauren touched the lives of so many people who [could] not help but feel the love and joy for life she had when they were around her.”
“Her compassion and love for other people made her the most beautiful person inside and out. It was hard to stay sad around Lauren, she simply wouldn’t allow it. She was the lovely, lively heart and soul of our family.”
Local authorities released a description of the shooter and his vehicle to the public.
On Sept. 4, 2016, a witness called the police and reported seeing a man getting out of a gold SUV and entering an apartment with what appeared to be a rifle in his hand.
They then provided a tag number.
An officer located that vehicle in a parking lot in the 4700 block of Southwest Parkway and pulled it over. Lott was the driver of the vehicle, and he was taken to police headquarters for questioning.
In a recorded three-hour interview with the Wichita Falls police, Lott confessed to murdering Lauren. Afterward, detectives offered to place him in confinement while in the county jail.
He told investigators that he had been watching Lauren for a year from a window in his parents’ apartment, and he had started to like her.
However, his fondness for Lauren turned to rage when he found out she had a boyfriend. That’s when Austin said he consulted with the devil about how to kill her, according to the Dallas News.
When he saw Lauren and Makayla walking home from school on Sept. 2, 2016, he decided to drive to their location armed with his stepfather’s semi-automatic, AR-15 type .22 caliber rifle.
When he arrived, he said he pulled out the gun and fired 30 rounds through the car window, striking Lauren and her friend, whom he contends wasn’t his intended target.
After shooting Lauren, Lott told detectives that he thought she was going to die instantly. But when he heard her wailing and screaming, he shot her in the head because he didn’t want her to suffer.
He said, “It was like I was in a video game. Right after I shot them, I lit up a joint.” Lott then discarded the murder weapon in a field.
He said he later went back to retrieve the gun to put it back in his stepfather’s gun case.
On Sept. 4, 2016, two days after the shooting, Lott was officially arrested and booked into the Wichita County Jail, where he was held on a $4 million bond.
He was charged with a slew of criminal charges, including murder, aggravated assault, and prohibited weapons.
Following a trial in 2018, a jury deliberated for 40 minutes before finding Lott guilty of killing Lauren and shooting Makayla.
In a portion of the state’s closing arguments, Special Prosecutor Ron Poole stated that “no newspaper or television can bring you the odor of fresh blood. You’ve got to be at the crime scene.”
Lott was sentenced to life in prison, plus 20 years for injuring Makayla, and he was ordered to pay an aggregate of $20,000 in fines.
In 2019, he filed an appeal for a new trial, but the Court of Appeals Second Appellate District in Fort Worth, Texas, denied it.