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Press Release

Rock Hill Man Sentenced for Interstate Domestic Violence Resulting in the Death of Wife

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Carolina

GREENVILLE, S.C. —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. 

Evidence obtained in the investigation revealed beginning in December 2019, police in York County responded to multiple 911 calls by Nicole during which she reported that Florentine physically abused her and threatened to kill her, burn her, and bury her. 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, Florentine sent angry text messages and photographs that show he intentionally set the property on fire to destroy Nicole’s belongings. Arson charges are pending in state court. 

On June 13, 2020, a groundskeeper for Hill Cemetery in Fredonia, Kentucky, discovered what appeared to him to be a makeshift grave. Officers 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.

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 car 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 as he casually filled 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 the opportunity to properly mourn her.

“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 some measure of 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 to be followed by five years of supervised release. Florentine was also ordered to pay $5,800 in restitution.

The case was investigated by the Kentucky State Police, Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, York County Sheriff’s Office, Rock Hill Police Department, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leesa Washington and Benjamin N. Garner are prosecuting the case.



Veronica Hill, Public Affairs Specialist,, (803) 929-3000

Updated April 10, 2024

Violent Crime