Editor's note: This is the ninth in a series of stories selected by the staff of The Commercial as the Top 10 local news stories of 2011.
Editor’s note: This is the ninth in a series of stories selected by the staff of The Commercial as the Top 10 local news stories of 2011.
Of all the homicides reported during 2011, the Aug. 13 shooting death of Re’Shelle Smith and the subsequent search for her accused killer, Kendrick Hampton, attracted much attention from the public.
Smith’s death and Hampton’s arrest Sept. 9 was voted the number two story of the year by the staff of The Commercial.
According to her mother, Leslie Abernathy, Smith, 23, “had a motherly instinct and was always trying to fix everybody’s problems.”
Hampton was the father of Smith’s two-year-old child, and according to her mother, the two had started dating when they were in the ninth or 10th grade.
The two broke up after an incident Jan. 30 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel when police found Hampton with his arm around Smith’s neck, and reported that her face was “very bloody, and there was a large amount of blood on Smith, Hampton and the floor.”
Hampton was charged with second-degree domestic battery in that incident, and with theft by receiving after police found a stolen handgun under has pants.
Abernathy said Smith tried to move on with her life, but remained friends with Hampton because of their child, allowing him to keep the child while she worked the night shift at a plant at Sheridan, getting off work at 3 a.m., and picking up the child at Hampton’s mother’s home in the 3600 block of Missouri Street at about 3:30 a.m.
On the morning of Aug. 13, police were sent to that house just before 6 a.m., in response to a reported shooting and reported finding blood in the street and a shell casing but not Smith, her vehicle or Hampton.
The vehicle, a red Toyota, was located on Bohannon Road, about five miles from the house on Missouri Street just after 8 a.m. Police found Smith’s body in the passenger seat. She was pronounced dead at the scene and the State Medical Examiner determined that she died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head.
Hampton had left the scene before police arrived and an immediate search began for him, beginning in the Pine Bluff area, then expanding to include the state, and then the entire country.
On Aug. 26, Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter filed capital murder charges against Hampton, and on Aug. 30, police named him “Pine Bluff’s Most Wanted,” offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
The search continued until Sept. 9, when Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies, members of the U.S. Marshal’s Service and officers from the Arlington, Texas, Police Department located Hampton at a house in the 2100 block of Park Boulevard, in Arlington where he was staying with a female later identified as his aunt.
After the two refused to come outside and officers learned that he was armed, they established a perimeter and Arlington police deployed their SWAT team, set up a command post, and brought in hostage negotiators to talk to Hampton and his aunt.
Sheriff’s Capt. John McNeil, one of the deputies who had gone to Texas to look for Hampton, said Hampton and the aunt walked outside at about 9 a.m. and surrendered, and afterward, Arlington police served a search warrant on the house where they located a semi-automatic handgun which was brought back to Pine Bluff when Hampton was returned the following day and turned over to Pine Bluff Police.
Making his first court appearance Sept. 12, Hampton was told he would be held without bond on the charge of capital murder.
Currently, Hampton is scheduled for trial on the murder charge in March, but will have another court appearance in February when he is scheduled for trial on the second-degree domestic battery and theft by receiving charges.
Both those cases are assigned to First Division Circuit Court Judge Berlin C. Jones.
“I want answers to what happened that night,” Abernathy said in September after being told that Hampton had been arrested. “I know there was a struggle because her daughter is starting to remember and say things. I hope I get a chance to talk to him because he is the only one that can give me the answers I need.”