Two people accused of murders who were scheduled for trial have been sentenced to prison after entering pleas to settle their cases. Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter said Wednesday that Mark Carrington, who was charged with the June 20, 2016, shooting death of Allen Lee Lampkin, and Mary Melisa Blair, who was charged in the Jan. 2, 2017, shooting death of Eric Cherry, both pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
“All cases are important, but homicide cases tend to get more attention from the media and the public,” Hunter said. “In both these cases, we had the cooperation of law enforcement and of people who witnessed the incidents to be able to get ready to go to trial.”
Hunter said Fifth Division Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis sentenced Carrington, who had been scheduled for trial beginning today, to 35 years in prison. Blair, whose trial had been set to begin March 12, was sentenced to 30 years in prison by First Division Circuit Judge Alex Guynn.
Had they gone to trial and been convicted of first-degree murder, they would have been sentenced to 10-to-40 years or life in prison.
Each will have to serve 70 percent of their sentence before being eligible to apply for parole, and each will receive credit for the time they have been in jail awaiting trial.
Carrington was 19 at the time he was arrested after a witness identified him as the person they saw standing by the passenger side of a pickup driven by Lampkin on the parking lot of Kibb's BBQ at 1400 S. Blake St.
Lampkin was found slumped over the wheel of the truck and was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of death was listed as multiple gunshot wounds. Pine Bluff Detective Steve Rucker said in a probable cause affidavit that formed the basis for the charges that the witness told police Carrington shot Lampkin after an argument over drugs.
When Carrington was questioned, he said that Lampkin had threatened him and saw Lampkin pull a handgun out of the console of his truck and point it at him. Carrington said he reached into the pocket of another person who was there, retrieved a gun, then shot Lampkin twice before dropping the gun and running away.
During Carrington's initial court hearing after he was arrested, Hunter said that no guns were found in Lampkin's vehicle or at the scene, and physical evidence recovered supported both the statements of witnesses and Carrington.
Blair, 36, of Gould, had been charged with shooting Cherry inside a house at 3103 Almetta Drive. Cherry was found bleeding outside the house and taken to Jefferson Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
A witness who was in the house at the time told police that Blair had come to his house and asked him to call Cherry for her so she could get some crack cocaine; after Cherry arrived, he saw Cherry sitting on a couch with Blair standing in front of him, then heard a loud noise and saw Blair pointing a gun and shooting Cherry.
She was arrested at a house in Gould after police released information about her on social media and to the news media. She was then brought back to Pine Bluff, where she waived her right to an attorney.
Pine Bluff Detective Mike Sweeney said in a probable cause affidavit that when Blair was questioned, she said Cherry had hugged her and started “rubbing his big O (expletive) black (expletive) belly on her and told her he 'was going to get some.'”
She said she got up, got her gun, and shot Cherry three times.
“So many of our homicides are drug-related,” Hunter said. “One of these victims and both of the shooters were involved in drug usage and selling drugs. Some people say drug crimes are victim-less crimes because the only ones hurt are the users, but so many of our drug-related crimes involve violence, so they're not victimless crimes.”
Hunter said that unlike some of the other cases that prosecutors deal with, witnesses in these two cases came forward to help police by telling them what they saw and heard, and were prepared to testify in court.
“Sometimes people are scared to testify, so it makes it difficult to prove cases at trial,” Hunter said.