Medical Examiner: Former Crestview High football standout died from multiple stab wounds in inmate-on-inmate altercation

Incarcerated former Crestview High School football standout Dillan Travell Lawson died April 1 from multiple stab wounds he received during an altercation with another state prison inmate.

His death is being actively investigated as a homicide by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

The District 14 Medical Examiner's Office, based in Panama City, released the cause and manner of death Monday morning at the request of the Northwest Florida Daily News.

Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) issued a statement that Lawson was pronounced deceased from an apparent inmate-on-inmate altercation that occurred April 1 at Jackson Correctional Institution, located north of the city of Malone in Jackson County. That day the DOC listed Lawson as "DOC Out-Custody" on its inmate website.

FDLE, as it does in all cases of "non-natural" death, is investigating the killing of Lawson. Other than confirming an active investigation in progress, FDLE declined further comment. The Department of Correction's Office of Inspector General assists in investigations of this nature, according to the DOC website.

FDLE began investigating unexplained inmate deaths in 2014, after reporters uncovered numerous cases of questionable fatalities within the state prison system. Reforms came about after then-state Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, launched his own investigation into the DOC as chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

The Daily News began investigating the death of Lawson, 23, on Saturday following a tip from a community source. At that time it was discovered that Lawson — sentenced on March 4, 2015 in Okaloosa County for willful child abuse and cocaine possession — was listed as deceased by DOC. 

According to his DOC profile page, Lawson was serving a sentence of three years, six months and nine days at the Jackson County facility. His incarceration began April 7, 2015.

While Lawson found himself in the state corrections system at the age of 21, he once was considered among Florida’s top college football prospects.

Following an impressive showing at the University of Florida’s Junior Day in February 2012, Lawson verbally committed to the 2013 class for head coach Will Muschamp. But by the summer, academic struggles — which included Lawson transferring to the Okaloosa Youth Academy alternative school — led Florida to part ways with the recruit.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Lawson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds as a junior at Crestview during the spring of 2012 and was ranked the No. 351 recruit in the country and No. 51 in Florida by 247Sports. The recruiting website also listed him as a 3-star prospect and the No. 27 outside linebacker in the country.

On top of Florida, Lawson received scholarship offers from Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina and Southern Miss, according to 247Sports.

His first arrest in Okaloosa County was on Nov. 28, 2012 at age 19 for two counts of battery of a pregnant victim (with knowledge) and one count of battery by strangulation. His second listing on the Okaloosa County Jail website was Oct. 9, 2013 for marijuana possession.

Lawson was booked into the Okaloosa County Jail the last time on July 10, 2014, on charges that included those for which he was ultimately sent to state prison — cocaine possession and violation of probation for cruelty to child-abuse without great bodily harm.

Daily News executive editor Bob Heist contributed to this report.