Trial begins in death of Pinellas graphic designer

Thomas Hampton Frederick, 25, shown in court Wednesday, is accused of murdering Adrianne Robert of Clearwater on July 13, 2012.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Thomas Hampton Frederick, 25, shown in court Wednesday, is accused of murdering Adrianne Robert of Clearwater on July 13, 2012.

LARGO — On this, prosecutors and defense attorneys agree: Thomas Hampton Frederick, 25, killed Adrianne Robert on July 13, 2012.

Prosecutors say Frederick murdered Robert, a 29-year-old graphic artist, after meeting her at a strip club and going back to her Clearwater townhouse. He stabbed her, left her to die in a bathroom and stole her Jeep, they say.

Defense attorneys say Frederick and Robert had consensual sex and that Robert became angry afterward. It was she, public defender Lori Mahin said, who attacked him with a knife. In Frederick's struggle to defend himself, she said, Robert was stabbed.

In the state's opening statement, prosecutor Noelle Festa recounted the night of July 13, 2012, when Robert's roommate found her dead from a stab wound to her chest.

Pinellas County sheriff's officials swept the room for fingerprints and collected DNA. They found that a piece of Robert's fitted bedsheet had been cut out.

Investigators identified Frederick as a suspect based on surveillance video from the strip club. They later tailed him and seized a cigarette he had tossed out of a car. The DNA he left on that cigarette matched DNA found at the crime scene. His fingerprints also matched those on a bathroom door frame.

In a statement to detectives, Frederick admitted that he had sex with Robert and killed her. He told detectives where they could find the kitchen knife he used to stab her. He had wrapped the knife in the cloth he had cut out from the bedsheet.

But Mahin said prosecutors could not prove that Frederick was guilty of premeditated murder. She said Robert's neighbor, who saw the pair walking to her townhouse, will testify that he saw nothing out of the ordinary.

Mahin said Robert agreed to have sex with Frederick but later became angry with him.

Robert took a swing at Frederick, and the two began fighting, Mahin said. She said Robert picked up a knife from the counter and went after him.

"She did sustain a stab wound as he was fighting her off," she said.

After opening statements, Judge Thane Covert asked Frederick whether his attorneys had discussed his defense with him before the trial. Frederick, who is charged with first-degree murder and faces a life sentence if convicted, nodded yes.

The trial got off to a late start Wednesday after a juror showed up two hours late. He was excused and replaced by an alternate.

The trial continues today.

Trial begins in death of Pinellas graphic designer 01/29/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 11:53pm]

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