Judge Berlin C. Jones sentenced Kendrick Hampton to a total of 65 years in prison in the 2011 shooting death of Re’Shelle Smith on Wednesday night.
A Jefferson County Circuit Court jury recommended the sentencing which includes 50 years for second-degree murder and 15 years for using a firearm in commission of a crime.
The sentences are to run consecutively, or one after the other. The sentences will also run consecutively with a 48 month term he is currently serving after pleading no contest to one count of second-degree domestic battery that resulted from an incident involving Smith in January 2011, and one count of theft by receiving.
Those prior convictions meant Hampton, 26, was charged and convicted as an habitual offender, which added 20 years to what would have been a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for a second-degree murder conviction.
The jury deliberated for more than three hours Wednesday before reaching its verdict. They deliberated the sentences for about two hours.
Hampton will be required to serve one half of each sentence, less good time, before he is eligible to apply for parole. Prisoners receive one day of good time for each day they serve without problems, meaning that he could be eligible to apply for parole after serving one quarter of the total sentence, or just over 16 years.
Capital murder charge
Prosecutors had charged Hampton with capital murder in the death of Smith, 23, who was shot while she sat in a car in front of 3605 Missouri St., on Aug. 13, 2011. She had gone to the house to pick up her daughter, who was being kept by Hampton, the child’s’ father, while Smith was at work at a factory in Sheridan.
After the shooting, Hampton pulled Smith into the vehicle and drove to the 400 block of Bohannon Road, a home owned by a relative, and left the scene. Smith’s body was found inside the vehicle and she was pronounced dead at the scene.
On Tuesday, Associate State Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Erickson said the death was the result of gunshot wounds, including one to the back of the head.
Hampton fled and was arrested on Sept. 9 in Arlington, Texas, after he was traced to the home of a relative. Following a lengthy stand-off with Arlington Police, the U.S. Marshal’s Service and Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies, he was taken into custody and brought back to Arkansas the following day.
After Hampton was arrested, Arlington Police served a search warrant on the house and recovered a .40-caliber Glock pistol. Deborah Platt, who works for the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, testified Tuesday that shell casings found in the car with Smith’s body and at the scene of the shooting on Missouri Street, were fired from that gun.
After the jury returned its guilty verdict to the charge of second-degree murder, prosecutors were allowed to present impact testimony, which included that of Smith’s mother, Leslie Abernathy, and one of her sisters, Kiana Smith.
“In 2005, I lost my mother, my sister, my grandmother, a five-year-old niece and my grandfather and I thought I knew pain,” Abernathy said. “I didn’t know pain until I lost my daughter.
“For months I lived in a dark room,” she said. “I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t help my children. It hurt so bad but by the grace of God I’m here.”
Later, Abernathy said “I’m still suffering. God gave her to me and no body had the right to take her from me. I know she is in a better place but I couldn’t accept that.”
Testimony by family
Abernathy also talked about Smith’s daughter, who is now four years old, and was nearly three when her mother was killed.
Asked by Juneau if the girl asks about her mother, Abernathy said “yes.
“I told her she’s in heaven and she wants to go to heaven,” Abernathy said, explaining an incident shortly after Re’Shelle was killed. “I had to go to the funeral home to take care of some business and she (the daughter) ran through the funeral home screaming for her mother.”
“The lady working there had to take her through the entire funeral home and show her that her mother wasn’t there,” Abernathy said. “She really loved her dad but to this day she has not spoken to her dad.”
Holding a photograph of Re’Shelle, Abernathy cried saying “This is all I have left. I can’t touch her, I can’t hold her. She needed to see her daughter grow up. When my daughter was murdered, I was murdered.
“I pray nobody has to go through the pain that I’m going through,” Abernathy said before breaking down a second time and being helped from the witness stand by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Juneau and Toni Perkins who works for the Victim-Witness Division of the prosecutor’s office.
A younger sister, Kiana, told Deputy Prosecutor Rik Ramsey that Re’Shelle was “like a mother to me. She was always helping me. Now I don’t have nobody to go to. To lean on. She was always there for me.”
“Many nights I thought about killing my own self because she was gone and she was all I had,” she said during later testimony.
“I don’t understand why she had to be taken from me,” Kiana Smith said. “I just want my sister back.”
She too had to be helped from the witness stand after breaking out in tears.
In his closing argument during the penalty phase, Ramsey asked the jury to impose the maximum penalty.
“Hampton is in his 20’s. He’s got his whole life in front of him. His mother testified that she will still be able to see him. Re’Shelle’s family can’t do that,” Ramsey said.
Memphis attorney Clayborne Ferguson, who represented Hampton, countered by saying that “she can’t come back and we can’t change the facts of what happened.
“Look at the case as a whole and decide what would be an appropriate punishment,” Ferguson said. “The maximum should be reserved for the worse of the worst.”
Ferguson asked the jury for a sentence of between 15 and 20 years total for second-degree murder and for the use of the firearm, but Juneau responded by saying that “under these circumstances, this is the worst of the worst.”
Juneau went on to explain that a 50 year sentence did not mean 50 years in prison, any more than a 15 year sentence for using the gun during the commission of the murder meant 15 years in prison.
While Ferguson had argued for a manslaughter conviction, Ramsey said after the case was over that Hampton’s testimony of the way the shooting occurred “was like trying to put a square peg in a round hole” and “didn’t match the evidence collected by crime scene technicians.
“There was moving testimony from Leslie (Abernathy) and Kiana (Smith), Re’Shelle’s younger sister,” Ramsey said. “Losing a loved one as a result of a violent act is something that can never be overcome and it’s a day-to-day struggle and their only satisfaction is that the jury sentenced Kendrick Hampton to the maximum sentence.”
Jones told Hampton he had 30 days to file a notice of appeal of the conviction.