Murder suspect Kendrick Hampton said Tuesday afternoon Re’Shelle Smith, his former girlfriend and the mother of his child, pointed a gun at him while the two were in a car together Aug. 13, 2011, the day Smith was killed.
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Wednesday morning after the judge issues instructions to the jury of 10 women and four men (incluing two alternates.)
Hampton, 26, testified the second day of his capital murder trial in Jefferson County Court.
After the gun went off while he was trying to take it away, “I snatched the gun and pulled the trigger a couple of times,” he said.
“I saw the gun and got really scared because the last time I saw a gun I was shot,” Hampton said.
Smith, 23, was pronounced dead of a gunshot wound to the head after her body was found in the back seat of a red Toyota in the driveway of a house on Bohannon Road that belonged to one of Hampton’s relatives.
Hampton fled the scene and was arrested Sept. 9 after he was traced to a house that belonged to his aunt in Arlington, Texas, and bought back to Pine Bluff. A search warrant served by Arlington Police on the house resulted in police finding a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun.
Questioned by his attorney, Clayborne Ferguson of Memphis, Hampton said he “had no plan or intention to kill Smith” and “that he had no hard feelings” toward Smith, who was seeing another man.
“You shot her in the back of the head, the shoulder and the arm,” Chief Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Juneau said when he cross-examined Hampton. “How can you shoot somebody like that and not have hard feelings?”
Prosecutors have charged Hampton with capital murder, alleging he committed the murder with “premeditation and deliberation.” Ferguson hammered on that theme when he questioned Hampton and also when he asked Circuit Judge Berlin C. Jones for a directed verdict of not-guilty, saying that prosecutors had not offered any proof that Hampton threatened or attempted to intimidate Smith, nor had they presented any evidence that Hampton lured Smith to the house with the intention of killing her.
Arguing against that motion, Juneau said prosecutors had presented evidence that Hampton called Smith and sent her text messages earlier that morning, asking her to come pick up their daughter, who was staying with Hampton and his family while Smith worked nights at a factory in Sheridan.
In denying that motion, Jones said that there had been no testimony offered that there was any indication of self-defense, or any argument, or fight between Hampton and Smith, but because of the phone calls, “it appears to the court this was an ambush all the way.”
Earlier Tuesday, Brittney Smith, who identified herself as a friend of Re’Shelle Smith (no relation), testified that Hampton had said on several occasions that “if he couldn’t have Re’Shelle, no one else could,” a claim Hampton denied when he testified.
Called back to the witness stand Tuesday afternoon, Brittney Smith admitted that prosecutors had charged her with two counts of aggravated robbery stemming from the so-called “Craig’s List” robberies of individuals from out of state lured to Pine Bluff to buy vehicles advertised on the social media website, then robbed after they were instructed to meet the alleged buyers at remote locations.
Questioned by Ferguson, Brittney Smith agreed when he asked her if “she hoped prosecutors would remember her favorable testimony.”
Associate State Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Erickson testified that Re’Shelle Smith died as the result of three wounds, with the fatal one entering the back of the head and exiting through the right eyebrow.
“Because the death was at the hands of another, the manner of death was homicide,” Erickson said.
On Monday, prosecutors presented evidence that four shell casings were recovered after the shooting, one from the ground in front of 3605 Missouri St., where the shooting occurred, the remaining three from inside the car where Smith’s body was found.
Testifying Tuesday afternoon, Deborah Platt, a forensic firearms and toolmarks examiner for the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, said those shell casings were fired from the gun Arlington police recovered after Hampton was arrested.
She also said testing of a bullet and bullet fragments recovered from Smith’s body were inconclusive, and “could or could not have been fired from the recovered gun.”
A large portion of Tuesday morning’s testimony came from Hampton’s mother, LaTonya Gonder, who said Hampton had called her several times the morning of the shooting.
In one of those calls, Gonder said Hampton told her to “take care of my baby,” and when she said “I got her,” he replied, “No, take care of my baby. I messed up. I messed up.”
Gonder said she also asked to talk to Smith and her son replied that she “couldn’t right now,” then said “she’s gone.”
“When I asked him how he knew she was gone, he said ‘I know,’” Gonder said, then when asked by Juneau, said “I thought she was dead.”
Gonder also Hampton told her “she done got shot.”
She also admitted that she led police to the house on Bohannon Road after Hampton told her he was “down Highway 15,” and said she tried unsuccessfully to talk Hampton into surrendering.
Gonder said at one point after reaching the house on Bohannon Road, she handed her cell phone to Deputy Chief of Police Kelvin Sergeant, who also tried to talk Hampton into giving himself up.
Sergeant told Deputy Prosecutor Rik Ramsey that he had gone to school with Gonder and when he talked to Hampton, asked him to go to the Jefferson Square Shopping Center where he could turn himself in.
“Did he turn himself in?” Ramsey asked.
No,” Sergeant replied.
When he testified, Hampton said he didn’t remember talking to Sergeant.
At the time of his arrest, Hampton was out on bond after being charged with second-degree domestic battery in an incident involving Smith on Jan. 30, 2011, and with theft by receiving.
Hampton pleaded no contest to those charges in February and was sentenced to 48 months in prison on each count, with the sentences to run concurrently.
If Hampton is convicted of capital murder, he would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.