Jury convicts man in slaying of teenager, her unborn baby
Family rejoices as 2 life sentences issued
Five years ago, the family of 14-year-old Chauntae Jones was horrified when she was found beaten, stabbed, and buried alive. In April, they were outraged when a jury acquitted a Dorchester man of killing Jones and her unborn baby.
Yesterday, when a childhood friend of the man was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison, Jones's relatives pumped their fists and whooped with joy. Jones's mother, Pamela Jones, hugged and thanked jurors as they left the courthouse.
Lord Hampton, 25, of Dorchester, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder for helping kill Jones, an eighth-grader at St. Mary's Alternative School in Dorchester who was found buried in a shallow grave in Mattapan almost five weeks after the killings.
Hampton, a small, stocky, bespectacled man, covered his face and wept at the sentence, but it prompted Jones's family to rejoice.
''Cry now, Lord!" said C. C. Jones, a 32-year-old cousin of Chauntae Jones, as she left the courtroom. Before sentencing, she told the judge that the slayings had devastated her family and that Hampton was ''going to rot in hell."
Hampton and his friend, Kyle Bryant, were accused of luring Jones, who was eight-months pregnant, to a shallow grave on the night of Sept. 28, 1999, and attempting to kill her with a rock, a brick, and knife.
The jury, which deliberated for a total of seven hours Friday and yesterday, convicted Hampton based on two theories presented by the state: that the murders demonstrated ''deliberate premeditation" and ''extreme atrocity or cruelty."
First-degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life without parole. Superior Court Judge Nancy Staffier Holtz yesterday accepted a request by Assistant District Attorney David E. Meier to make Hampton serve the two sentences consecutively instead of concurrently because of the brutality of the crime.
The judge said Hampton ''has no heart" and called the slayings ''cold-blooded, plain and simple." His only motive, she said, was to help Bryant, the presumed father of Jones's unborn child.
The killings occurred several weeks after a Boston juvenile court judge said at a child welfare hearing about Jones that he wanted prosecutors to investigate a statutory rape charge against Bryant. It is a crime in Massachusetts to have sex with someone younger than 16.
Prosecutors said Bryant wanted Jones killed to thwart the rape investigation.
Hampton and Bryant blamed each other, but both were prosecuted under a law that says participants in a joint criminal venture are equally culpable, even if only one did the killing. Meier, who also prosecuted Bryant, never specified who wielded the weapons.
In April, Bryant was acquitted of murder even though he told police in a tape-recorded statement that he was present when, in his account, Hampton killed Jones as she begged for help. The verdict stunned prosecutors and some defense lawyers. Under state law, jurors in Hampton's trial were not told the outcome of Bryant's trial and Bryant cannot be retried on the murder charges.
The state is not considering bringing other charges against Bryant, Meier said.
In a brief interview, Meier would not pinpoint why Bryant was acquitted and Hampton was found guilty.
''Every trial is different, and every jury is different," he said.
Hampton's lawyer, Randolph Gioia, told reporters afterward that it was a ''sad day for everyone involved."
Hampton, Gioia said, was a young man of below-average intelligence who grew up without adult guidance and played a secondary role in the slayings.
But, he said, the jury was obviously swayed by a 55-minute tape-recorded statement Hampton made to Boston police after Jones's body was found.
On the tape, Hampton told investigators that Bryant stabbed Jones, dumped her face-first in the shallow grave, crossed her legs ''like a turkey," and then jumped on her back as though he were trying to break a piece of wood. Hampton admitted to helping pile dirt on Jones while she was still alive.
Jones's body was not discovered until Bryant led detectives to the grave on Nov. 1, 1999. Detectives recovered a pillowcase in the grave that they said matched one found in Bryant's house. They also recovered a shovel nearby that they said was used to dig the grave.
Gioia said Hampton's statement was a false confession made under duress.
Hampton testified that he was miles away and that he admitted his involvement because he had been interrogated for hours and believed police would let him go if he told them what they wanted to hear.
One juror who declined to identify herself said outside the courthouse that she was persuaded by an abundance of evidence, including ''a lot of gruesome pictures."
The exhibits included several pictures of the effort by authorities to unearth Jones's body on the grounds of the former Boston State Hospital and an autopsy X-ray of Jones's fetus.
Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org