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Sex offender found guilty in Clearwater woman's stabbing death

LARGO — A Georgia sex offender accused of beating, raping and stabbing a Clearwater mother of three was found guilty of first-degree murder Thursday afternoon and may face execution.

John Lee Hampton, 35, silently stared at the ceiling as the guilty verdict was read in the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center courtroom.

In separate parts of the courtroom, relatives of Hampton and the victim, Lashonda McKinnes, hugged and cried at the end of the trial, which began Monday.

Nine of the 12 jurors suggested Hampton receive the death penalty, leaving prosecution and defense attorneys until Aug. 28 to file sentencing memoranda, said 6th Judicial Circuit spokesman Ron Stuart.

Those documents will outline any factors that could modify the sentence and argue for or against the jury's recommendation.

Circuit Judge Richard Luce, who presided over the trial, will decide on the sentence. A judge usually follows a jury's recommendation.

The slaying occurred June 10, 2007.

Hampton gave police conflicting accounts of what happened, then said he killed McKinnes, 25, by stabbing her neck and slitting her throat when she came at him while he looked through her things, a prosecutor said.

Police said Hampton's shorts and shoes were stained with blood and that bloody socks were found in a trash can at McKinnes' north Clearwater apartment complex.

Hampton had attempted to clean up the scene by dousing McKinnes with lighter fluid and other chemicals, said David Tobiassen of the State Attorney's Office.

But a defense attorney said during opening arguments Monday that Hampton and McKinnes had consensual sex after a night of drinking and card games with two other people.

He said 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 defense attorney Richard N. Watts.

Watts said Hampton "panicked" and tried to clean up before leaving the apartment.

After the verdict Thursday, several members of McKinnes' family declined comment.

Jimmy Hampton, 32, said his brother's "bad record," including a charge of kidnapping and 11 years in a Georgia prison for child molestation, added to the verdict.

"If he did it, he deserves what he got," Jimmy Hampton said. "But I can't say if he did it. I wasn't there."

Maurice Mack, McKinnes' older sister, is caring for the three young daughters, one of whom was hiding in the apartment that night and witnessed parts of the attack.

The girl, De'jhana McKinnes, now 7, did not take the stand, but prosecutors had recordings of statements she made to detectives.

Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

Sex offender found guilty in Clearwater woman's stabbing death 06/25/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 25, 2009 9:26pm]

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