The attorney for a man accused of killing his former girlfriend and the mother of his child said in court Monday that his client was “responsible for something,” but not capital murder.
Prosecutors have charged Kendrick Hampton with capital murder in the Aug. 13, 2011, shooting death of Re’Shelle Smith, 23, whose body was found in a car on Bohannon Road. She was pronounced dead of a gunshot wound to the back of the head.
In his opening statement, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Juneau said Hampton “with premeditated and deliberate purpose” caused Smith’s death. Hampton’s attorney, Clayborne Ferguson of Memphis, said Hampton was “a man without a plan.”
“The question is not who killed Re’Shelle Smith and you (the jury) will have no problem figuring out who killed Re’Shelle Smith,” Ferguson said. “The question is how and why?
“There was a fight and Re’Shelle was killed,” he said. “It was not capital murder.”
Prosecutors say Smith was killed when she went to a house belonging to one of Hampton’s relatives to pick up her daughter after getting off work at a plant at Sheridan. Smith, who allowed Hampton to keep their child while she was working, arrived at the house between 5:30 and 6 a.m.
In his opening statement, Juneau said Hampton was waiting with a pistol when Smith arrived, opened the passenger door of her car, a red Toyota, and fired four shots at Smith, the last striking her in the back of her head when she was trying to get out of the vehicle. Hampton then allegedly put Smith in the back seat of the car and drove off, telling his mother by phone “he had messed up.”
The car and body were found about two hours later at 427 Bohannon Road, in the driveway of a house owned by one of Hampton’s relatives.
That relative, Bobbie Dorrough, said Hampton was her nephew’s stepson, and she “was sure he had probably been to the house in the past,” because family get-togethers had been held there including Mother’s Day dinners.
Dorrough, who still owns the property but no longer lives there, said she had gone by to check on it earlier on the day of the shooting and there were no vehicles there.”
The car and Smith’s body were found after police detective Mike Sweeney, who was assigned to the Patrol Division when the shooting occurred, obtained information from Hampton’s mother, who had talked to him on the phone.
Sweeney told Deputy Prosecutor Rik Ramsey that he “saw the Red Toyota in the driveway and a black female in the back seat motionless.”
Smith was pronounced dead at the scene.
Crime scene technician Erin Mothershed, who processed the scene, said during her testimony Monday that she found an entry hole for what appeared to be a bullet in the driver’s side inside door of the car, and an apparent exit hole on the outside of the door.
Mothershed said she recovered three spent shell casings from inside the car — one that was in the driver’s seat, the second on the driver’s side floorboard and the third from under the right front passenger seat. She said she also processed what appeared to be blood spatter in several locations inside the vehicle.
A fourth shell casing was recovered by Crime scene technician Cathy Ruhl from the street in front of 3605 Missouri St., where the shooting reportedly occurred.
Ruhl said in her testimony that when she was called to the house at 7:05 a.m., “it was pouring rain” and she saw a “pool of red-tinted water” she believed to be blood.
After the shooting, Hampton fled the state. He was arrested Sept. 9 when Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies, members of the U.S. Marshal’s Service and Arlington, Texas, police officers located him at the home of an aunt in the 2100 block of Park Boulevard in Arlington. After he refused to come out and officers learned he was armed, they backed off, established a perimeter, set up a command post and brought in hostage negotiators.
After Hampton and the aunt walked outside and surrendered, Arlington police served a search warrant and recovered a handgun that Juneau said Monday was determined to have been the murder weapon and fired the four shells whose casings were found at the scene or in the car.
Hampton is serving a 48-month prison sentence after pleading no contest to second-degree domestic battery involving Smith and theft by receiving in February.
In that incident, Hampton was accused of hitting Smith in the face during an altercation at the hotel attached to the Pine Bluff Convention Center on Jan. 30, 2011. At the time of his arrest, he was carrying a loaded semiautomatic pistol that had been reported stolen in Memphis.
The state has waived the death penalty and if Hampton is convicted of capital murder, he would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A jury of 10 women and four men, including two alternates, is hearing the case in First Division Circuit Court with Judge Berlin C. Jones presiding.
Testimony is scheduled to continue today at 9 a.m., with the trial expected to wrap up Thursday.