Nancy Bergeron, Ruston Daily Leader
A 3rd Judicial District Court jury on Friday found Frank “Red” Stringfellow guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of the mother of two of his children.
Jurors also found Stringfellow guilty of one count of attempted second-degree murder and one count of illegal use of a weapon. But jurors couldn’t reach the required voted for guilt or innocence on another count of attempted second-degree murder.
Prosecutors immediately moved to dismiss that count rather than force the jury to continue to deliberate.
Stringfellow now stands convicted of killing Shakena Hampton, 35, and wounding her mother, Doris Hampton, on Aug. 22, 2017. The incident happened shortly after 1 a.m. in a home shared by Shakena Hampton, her five children and Doris Hampton on Cotton Avenue in Ruston.
“The jury did a good job,” lead prosecutor Assistant District Attorney Tracy Houck said. “Justice is certainly served. The family deserved that.”
At least a dozen of Shakena Hampton’s relatives, including her mother, watched the trial that began with jury selection Monday.
Houck praised his coprosecutors, first Assistant District Attorney Laurie James and Russell Woodard, for their work.
“The team was great,” he said.
Jurors deliberated two hours before returning the verdicts early Friday afternoon. The sevenwoman, five-man panel was unanimous in the murder decision, and 11-1 on the attempted murder count that involved the shooting of Doris Hampton.
Ten affirmative votes are required for conviction or acquittal. Stringfellow is scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 10.
The jury’s decisions followed a day-and-a-half of testimony from 21 witnesses, only one of which was called by Stringfellow’s attorney, Dwayne Burrell.
Stringfellow did not testify. He took notes throughout the trial and occasionally appeared to wipe tears from his eyes.
Witnesses said Shakena Hampton had changed the locks on her house perhaps as many as two times in the weeks before she was killed in an effort to keep Stringfellow away.
Twoof Shakena Hampton’s children testified they heard their mother and Stringfellow arguing the night she died.
ShakenaHamptonwas shot in the living room of her home, her 1-year-old son Isaiah in her arms. She then ran to the bedroom where Doris Hampton was sleeping and collapsed near the bed.
Stringfellow came into the bedroom where he shot Doris Hampton three times in the right arm. Shakena Hampton was shot six times. One of the bullets apparently passed through her body and lodged in Isaiah’s back.
The baby has recovered and is living with his birth father.
Prosecutors introduced into evidence Isaiah’s blood-soaked pajamas, as well as blood-stained bedding, clothing worn by both Shakena Hampton and Doris Hampton, bullet fragments and graphic pictures of the scene.
“I saw my mama and blood everywhere,” DestinyLaGrange,15,testified.
Originally, Stringfellow faced an attempted second-degree murder charge in connection with reportedly pointing his gun at Destiny and pulling the trigger — the gun only clicked because it was out of bullets. That was the charge that was dismissed.
At one point during its deliberations, the jury sent a note written on a napkin to District Judge Bruce Hampton saying it wanted to see a transcript of testimony Destiny gave police the night of her mother’s murder.
But Hampton denied the request because the transcript wasn’t entered as evidence.
“Your decision will have to be made on what you heard,” he told jurors.
Parts of Destiny’s testimony on the stand conflicted both with testimony of other family members and apparently with statements given to police.
The only witnesses to what happened in the Cotton Avenue residence were Doris Hampton and three of Shakena Hampton’s children who were ages 12, 13 and 16 at the time.
Twootherchildren,the 1-year-old and a 10-yearold, were also in the house.
After she was shot, Doris Hampton ran out of the house to a neighbor’s. Testimony showed the two older children had also run outside and were still running when Frank Hampton called 911.
Another of the children hid in a closet — Ruston police officers coaxed her out when they arrived on the scene — and another slept through the incident. It was poliwce who discovered the baby, still on the floor with his mother’s body, was alive.
“I was there, and I saw what appeared to be the gunshot wound in the center of his back,” Ruston Police Officer Brian Davis testified, his voice cracking.
In closing arguments, James said Stringfellow acted intentionally, carrying out what seemed to be threats made earlier in earshot of his son, Frank Hampton.
“This man’s son told us that (Stringfellow) would say to his mother, ‘You keep playing with me, I’m going to put you in your grave.’ Well, he did,” James said.
Three of Stringfellow’s children, including Frank Hampton, 18, testified against him.
Frank Hampton “saw his father with a gun in his hand. He saw his mother on the floor. He saw his father fire into the mattress where his grandmother was,” James said.
“All the testimony was the shots were intentionally fired … When this defendant fired at Shakena Hampton, when she had the baby in her arms … ,” James said. “There’s no doubt this man put three bullets in Doris Hampton in attempt to kill her.”
Burrell, in his closing argument debunked some of the children’s testimony and said prosecutors failed.
“All they did was show some evidence, throw some sympathy, make you mad at Frank,” he said. “Don’t give them any benefit of the doubt. This is a serious proceeding. They have to prove it to you, and they didn’t.”
As many as dozen Ruston police officers, including RPD Chief Steve Rogers, were in the courtroom during closing arguments and when the verdicts were read.
In comments afterwards, Rogers thanked officers for their diligence on the case.
“They worked extremely, extremely hard on this case,” he said. “They did a tremendous, tremendous, job and the community ought to be proud of that.”