Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jury returns guilty verdict in 2006 murder

James Ray Booth rubs his eyes while listening to his attorney ask questions of potential jurors Monday. Booth is on trial for the October 2006 shooting death of Kenneth LaPointe.


James Ray Booth rubs his eyes while listening to his attorney ask questions of potential jurors Monday. Booth is on trial for the October 2006 shooting death of Kenneth LaPointe.

BROOKSVILLE — Lured into a dangerous situation by an unshakable crack-cocaine habit, James Ray Booth was fending off a pair of aggressive debt collectors when he accidentally shot and killed a man in October 2006, his attorney told a Hernando County jury Wednesday.

During her 45-minute closing argument, Tricia Jenkins tried to paint a picture of Booth as a weak man unfairly targeted as the lead suspect in Kenneth LaPointe's shooting death by both an unreliable witness trying to avoid jail and a careless group of Hernando County investigators.

Booth, 58, faced charges of first-degree murder, armed burglary and three related charges. He faced life in prison if convicted.

"Mr. LaPointe is dead and we're in this courtroom trying to figure out what happened," Jenkins said. "Wouldn't it be nice if the process had been done correctly and we all knew what happened?"

Jenkins and Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino spent nearly 2 1/2 hours Wednesday making their final pleas to the panel of four women and two men. The jury went into deliberations at about 6 p.m. and returned later after finding Booth guilty of murder in the third degree with a firearm causing death, and aggravated assault with a firearm.

He was found not guilty on burglary and aggravated battery charges.

Prosecutors say Booth went to 21330 Canal Drive in DaMac Estates on the afternoon of Oct. 21, 2006, to pay off a drug debt. Booth left the home and returned later with two rifles, leaving one on the kitchen table and pointing the other at Thor Richmond, who has been described as the enforcer for a local drug dealer.

Booth and Richmond began to struggle, and the rifle fired two to three times. The fight spilled into the front yard, where a neighbor, Denny Webb, overhead Booth tell Richmond, "I killed before. I will kill you (too)."

The homeowner, Kenneth LaPointe Sr., 56, was sitting at the kitchen table when the shooting began. One of the bullets struck him in the chest.

As Richmond and Booth took the battle outside, LaPointe staggered to a couch where he fell over and died. Outside the house, Richmond had finished the fight with the gun in his hand; Booth drove off to his girlfriend's house.

Magrino said Wednesday that Booth initiated the trouble by returning to the home with the rifles.

"Folks, he's the one who brought the guns to the gunfight," Magrino told the jury. "He's the aggressor with regard to the shooting at (LaPointe's) home."

But Jenkins argued that much of the prosecution's case rested on the shaky testimony of Richmond, who told investigators that he was angry that Booth had bought drugs from someone else when he owed Richmond $150 for crack cocaine.

"Mr. Booth was acting in self defense," she said. "He did not mean for Mr. LaPointe to die. He meant to defend himself from a man who was willing to put everybody in danger to collect money that wasn't even his. It makes me wonder how much his testimony is worth."

Jenkins also was critical of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office forensics unit, which she claimed hurt the entire investigation by not thoroughly securing the crime scene.

"We don't know whether (LaPointe) was shot in the living room or not," she said. "In that mess, we had a hard time finding any evidence at all. . . . There are a lot of things we don't know because the crime scene wasn't processed correctly."

Jury returns guilty verdict in 2006 murder 05/14/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 16, 2008 12:12am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Why are so few Tampa Bay houses for sale? They're being rented

    Real Estate

    Oreste Mesa Jr. owns a modest 40-year-old house in West Tampa just off MacDill Avenue. It's an area where many homeowners are hearing the siren song of builders and cashing out while the market is strong.

    Attorney David Eaton poses in front of his rental home at 899 72nd Ave. North. in St. Petersburg. He's among a growing number of property owners who see more value in renting out unused homes than selling them. 
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. In a word, Hernando school leaders say, first day was 'smooth'


    Over and over on Monday, school district leaders used the same word to describe the unfolding of the first day of school in Hernando County.


    Third-graders Teagan Ferguson, left, and Brianna DeLaine deliver attendance figures to the office at J.D. Floyd Elementary School on Monday. Superintendent Lori Romano and other district administrators toured a handful of schools and classrooms throughout the day,
  3. Looking Back: Diana, America's Princess


    The Washington Post, in her obituary, called her "the most photographed woman in the world." She was loved in England for saying, after her divorce from Prince Charles, "I'd like to be a queen of people's hearts." Americans loved her for her work with charitable causes supporting victims of AIDS and landmines. Aug. 31 …

    Prince Charles and Princess Diana on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on their wedding day.

(AP Photo)
  4. Rays morning after: 5 mistakes that led to loss to Blue Jays


    We've already documented elsewhere what the Rays didn't do, how they failed to take advantage of a prime opportunity to win Wednesday's game, getting just one run after loading the bases in the seventh with one out and three of …

    Jake Faria make too many mistakes, the failure to execute costing him repeatedly.
  5. Unborn baby dies, two critically injured in Largo crash


    LARGO — Two people were critically injured and an unborn baby was killed in a crash that shut down an intersection on Ulmerton Road late Wednesday night, the Florida Highway Patrol said.