LARGO — Hours after Lashonda McKinnes was beaten, raped and repeatedly stabbed June 10, 2007, police found bloody socks in a trash can at the 25-year-old's apartment complex in north Clearwater.
Soon thereafter, police spied John Lee Hampton nearby. He had blood stains on his shorts and shoes, but wasn't wearing any socks, police said.
The Georgia man was taken in for questioning and gave eight different accounts to explain the incriminating evidence, ultimately saying that he accidentally killed McKinnes when she "came at him" as he was riffling through her possessions, a prosecutor said Monday during opening statements in Hampton's first-degree murder trial.
Hampton's trial is scheduled to continue this morning.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Hampton, 35, who has been at the Pinellas County Jail since his arrest shortly after the brutal attack. They allege Hampton raped the mother of three young daughters, then "slit her throat, stabbing her neck, cutting her jugular vein," said David Tobiassen, of the State Attorney's Office. Hampton then poured lighter fluid and cleaning chemicals on her and tried to wipe away his DNA, Tobiassen said.
But a defense attorney for Hampton said the two had consensual sex after a night of drinking and card games with two other people. Hampton fell asleep and was awakened by a male friend, who told him it was time to go. Passing through the apartment, Hampton saw McKinnes on the floor, bleeding and tried to revive her, said attorney Richard N. Watts.
Watts said Hampton "panicked" and tried to clean up before leaving the apartment.
"It's a lie," the victim's older sister, Maurice Mack said of the defense attorney's contention.
Prosecutors said that Hampton left that night after the small get-together but came back later and killed McKinnes.
Mack said one of her sister's young daughters was hiding in the apartment that night and witnessed parts of the attack. The girl, De'jhana McKinnes, will not take the stand, Mack said, but prosecutors have recordings of statements she made to detectives.
De'jhana, now 7, has been traumatized and was stricken with fear recently when she saw Hampton's photo in the newspaper, Mack said. Mack has taken in McKinnes' three daughters.
"It's tough," Mack said. "It's hard. It's actually a struggle with the kids, but I'm just trying to keep it all together for them."
Hampton was released from a Georgia prison in 2004 after serving 11 years for child molestation. Mack said her sister did not know about Hampton's history as a sexual offender.
At the time of McKinnes' death, Hampton was wanted in Georgia on a kidnapping charge. McKinnes, who went by the nickname "Peanut," knew Hampton through a friend, and he had been over to her apartment a few times.
During his initial interviews with police, Hampton said McKinnes interrupted him as he was looking for cocaine in her apartment, and a struggle ensued.
But prosecutors said that McKinnes did not have cocaine or any other illicit drugs in her system when she was killed and Mack said her sister didn't do drugs.
Mack has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Clearwater Housing Authority, claiming security was lax at the public housing complex where McKinnes lived. The deadbolt on the front door did not lock, Mack said, which gave Hampton easy entry that night. A trial date has not been set in that case.
Rita Farlow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4157.