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Thread: James Hawkins, Jr. - Tennessee Death Row

  1. #1
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    James Hawkins, Jr. - Tennessee Death Row

    James Hawkins, Jr.

    September 12, 2008

    Death penalty sought in dismemberment murder

    State prosecutors said today they will seek the death penalty for a man who killed his girlfriend last year and forced their 12-year-old daughter to help dismember the body.

    James Hawkins, 31, is accused of strangling Charlene Gaither in February in their Raleigh apartment and then reporting her missing three days later. Parts of of her body were found along U.S. 78 in DeSoto County.

    He was indicted Thursday for first-degree murder, filing a false report and abuse of a corpse.

    The couple’s daughter told authorities she witnessed her mother’s murder and was then forced to help dismember her body with a circular saw and dispose of the parts. She said her father threatened to kill her if she did not cooperate.

    The torso was recovered, but not the head, hands or feet, officials said. Identification was made through DNA.

    Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons said his office is seeking the death penalty because Hawkins has prior violent felony convictions and because he mutilated the victim’s body after death.

    “After reviewing the facts of this case,” Gibbons said, “I have never felt more strongly about giving a jury the option of imposing the death penalty in accordance with our state law.”


  2. #2
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    April 28, 2009

    Police: Man made young child help as he cut up body

    A young girl who told police her father forced her to help as he cut up her mother's body with an electric saw said she could only look away when the head fell to the floor.

    The girl is the chief witness against James Hawkins, 31, a prison parolee charged with first-degree murder in the death of Charlene Gaither, 28, a longtime companion with whom he had three children. His trial is scheduled for September and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

    Police say Gaither was killed in February 2008 at the apartment she shared with Hawkins, their then 12-year-old daughter, Keyuna Thomas, and two boys, ages 9 and 11.

    Keyuna, now 13, told police she saw Hawkins stab her mother in the neck with a knife and then strangle her after she threatened to call police during an argument.

    The girl told police her father forced her to help as he cut up the body a day after the killing.

    Hawkins denies killing Gaither, but police say he acknowledged dumping her body along a rural highway after severing her head, hands and feet.

    "We hope to establish that he, in fact, gave no statement," said defense lawyer Larry Nance. "That's his position, that he didn't say that."

    But prosecutors say Hawkins, who had filed a missing person report on Gaither, blurted out to police that he had disposed of her body.

    "It was a voluntary statement, a spontaneous statement," assistant state prosecutor Patience Branham said.

    Branham spoke Monday after a scheduled court hearing was postponed until May 22 on a defense petition to dismiss the alleged statement.

    Hawkins, who is being held on a $4 million bond, has denied speaking with detectives about the killing.

    Authorities say Gaither died on Feb. 9, 2008, about five months after Hawkins was paroled on a 15-year prison sentence for a string of robberies. His parole was set to end in December.

    His daughter was 4 when Hawkins was convicted of armed robbery in 1999.

    Hawkins reported Gaither missing Feb. 12 and her torso was found two days later in rural Mississippi, just south of Memphis. The severed body parts were not found, and the body was identified through DNA analysis.

    The girl, now in the custody of her mother's family, said her younger brothers did not witness the slaying nor see their mother's body. But, she said, she was forced to help clean up the bloody scene and drag the body to a freezer where it was stored temporarily.

    "I told my dad I didn't want to do this anymore," she told police. "He says, 'You want to die, too?'"

    A psychiatric exam found Hawkins competent to stand trial.


  3. #3
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    March 11, 2010

    Accused killer rejects plea bid

    A man facing a death penalty trial on charges of strangling his girlfriend and then forcing his daughter to help him dismember the body rejected a chance Wednesday to plead guilty for a life sentence.

    James Hawkins, 32, spent several hours discussing the prosecution's offer with his defense attorneys, but they eventually informed Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft that their client wants a trial.

    State prosecutor Missy Branham, who told Hawkins the plea offer would be revoked after Wednesday, said she had hoped to spare the 12-year-old daughter and two younger sons having to testify in a trial.

    Later the judge granted a defense request to continue the capital murder trial to Oct. 4 to allow additional time for the sides to exchange reports and information on expert witnesses.

    The trial had been set for April 5.

    Hawkins is accused of killing Charlene Gaither, 28, on Feb. 9, 2008, in their Raleigh apartment and then forcing his daughter to help him dismember the body with a circular saw and dispose of the parts in various locations in DeSoto County.

    He cleaned and returned the saw to a hardware store and reported her missing three days later, authorities said.

    A mental evaluation showed that Hawkins understands the charges against him and that he is able to assist his court-appointed attorneys in his defense.

    He is represented by attorney Larry Nance and public defender Kindle Nance. They are not related.


  4. #4
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    August 27, 2010

    Added Child Rape Charge Delays Hawkins Trial

    The trial of a man charged in a Memphis dismemberment slaying has been pushed back after a child rape charge was added.

    James Hawkins had been scheduled for trial in November in the February 2008 killing and dismemberment of 28-year-old Charlene Gaither in the apartment they shared.

    A hearing will be held next month on whether the first-degree murder and rape charges can be tried together. The new trial date on the murder charge is Jan. 31. Prosecutors have asked for the death penalty if Hawkins is convicted.

    Authorities said the 33-year-old Hawkins cut up Gaither's body and disposed of the parts in several areas of DeSoto County, Miss.


  5. #5
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    Jury Selection Underway in Dismemberment Trial

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Jury selection is underway in the murder trial of a Memphis man accused of killing and dismembering his girlfriend in 2008.

    33-year old James Hawkins faces the death penalty if convicted of First Degree Murder in the death of Charlene Gaither. Prosecutors maintain Hawkins strangled Gaither, and then forced their 12-year old daughter to help him dismember the body. Police said Hawkins hid the remains in several locations across Desoto County.

    Hawkins admitted to disposing of the body, but did not confess to Gaither's murder. He declined a plea deal in March 2010 that would have given him a life sentence if convicted.

    Hawkins also faces a seperate trial for the rape of his daughter.


  6. #6
    Senior Member CnCP Legend JLR's Avatar
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    This will end with a death sentence.

  7. #7
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    Murder-dismemberment trial under way in Memphis

    MEMPHIS A man charged in the murder and dismemberment of the mother of his three children pleaded guilty Friday to two misdemeanors on the first day of arguments in his trial.

    James Hawkins, a 33-year-old career criminal, pleaded guilty to counts of filing a false missing persons report and abuse of a corpse. He still faces a first-degree murder charge and possibly the death penalty in a disturbing case that authorities also say includes incest.

    State prosecutors say Hawkins stabbed and strangled Charlene Gaither in 2008 after the woman confronted him about having sex with their 12-year-old daughter. They say he forced the girl to help dismember and dispose of her mother's body.

    Defense attorney Larry Nance placed the blame on the daughter in opening arguments, saying mother-daughter issues led the girl to kill her mother. He said Hawkins was merely helping the girl cover up the crime, something he freely admitted to with the guilty pleas.

    Hawkins has 18 criminal convictions since 1999 for aggravated robbery and aggravated assault and was paroled in 2007 after serving part of a 15-year sentence.

    Prosecutor Jennifer Nichols told the jury Hawkins loaded the children in the car after the killing and made stops at the Dollar Store to buy cleaning supplies and a circular saw. She said he instructed the couple's two sons to remain in the car while he took the girl inside, where he forced her to help move her mother's body from a freezer to a bathtub, where she was dismembered.

    Nichols said Hawkins then cleaned the circular saw and returned it to Kmart for a refund. Police testified they found blood in the bedroom and bathroom of the apartment the family shared and signs chemicals had been used to clean the freezer and other areas.

    A highway crew in Mississippi's DeSoto County found Gaither's headless body, which also was missing hands and feet, on the banks of the Coldwater River on Valentine's Day 2008.

    The trial was expected to resume Saturday with a silent viewing of the site where Gaither's body was found before a return to the courtroom for more testimony.


  8. #8
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    Oct 2010
    Boy: Dad bought saw day mother killed, dismembered

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A 14-year-old boy testifying at his father's murder trial said Monday that he went with his dad to buy a circular saw the day prosecutors argue the man killed and dismembered the teen's mother.

    James Hawkins, 33, could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing and strangling of Charlene Gaither in February 2008. Hawkins, a career criminal, and the 28-year-old Gaither had been longtime companions and had a daughter and two sons together.

    Prosecutors say Hawkins killed Gaither after she confronted him about having incestuous sex with their daughter, who was 12 years old at the time. Hawkins, who told his sons that their mother left in the middle of the night, forced the girl to help him take apart and get rid of her mother's body, prosecutors said.

    The boy testified that he once saw Hawkins lying on top of his sister on a bed, and that he and his brother helped their dad throw away their mother's mattress the day she was killed.

    The defense blames the girl for the killing and dismemberment. They said she did it because she and her mother were having problems.

    In court documents, Hawkins has admitted cutting up Gaither's body, and has pleaded guilty to abuse of a corpse, but says he did not kill her. A highway crew in Mississippi's DeSoto County found Gaither's headless body, which also was missing hands and feet, on the banks of the Coldwater River on Valentine's Day 2008.

    Hawkins also has pleaded guilty to filing a false missing persons report. He has 18 criminal convictions since 1999 for aggravated robbery and aggravated assault and was paroled in 2007 after serving part of a 15-year sentence.

    The Associated Press, which does not generally identify possible victims of sex crimes, is not naming the girl or her brother in an effort to shield the girl's identity.

    Prosecutor Jennifer Nichols asked the boy, who was 11 when his mother was slain, about a day when he was playing video games with his brother in their apartment. The boy said he went looking for batteries for the game controller when he saw his father and sister in a bedroom.

    "Out of the corner of my eye I could see him on top of my sister," the boy said, glancing at Hawkins.

    The boy later testified that his sister came into the room he and their younger brother shared on Feb. 9, 2008, the day prosecutors say Gaither was killed. The girl turned the television volume to its loudest setting, then ordered her two brothers to stay in the room until she returned, the boy said.

    After she let them out, they all went to Kmart to buy the saw. The jury saw video surveillance footage of the boy carrying the saw out of the store. Then they went back to the same store and returned the cleaned saw hours later.

    Once they had the saw, they went back to the apartment, the boy said. Hawkins told the boys to stay in the car, where they remained for three hours until they were ordered to help their father clean the apartment, the boy said. Prosecutors have argued that while the boys were in the car, Hawkins forced his daughter to help move her mother's body from a freezer to a bathtub, where she was dismembered.

    The boy said Hawkins told him to clean the bedroom, but stay out of the bathroom. The brothers and their father then threw Gaither's mattress in a Dumpster, the boy said.

    On cross examination, defense attorney Gerald Skahan asked the boy whether he could see in the surveillance video that his sister and father were walking arm-in-arm into the Kmart. Skahan also asked about the time when the girl turned up the TV volume and ordered the boys to stay in the room.

    "Your dad didn't do that. Your sister did it?" the defense attorney asked.

    "Yes, sir," the boy said.

    Also Monday, a former homicide detective who is now the Memphis police chief testified he smelled a strong odor of bleach coming out of Hawkins' apartment when he was arrested.

    Toney Armstrong also said that a piece of carpet had been cut from the floor of the master bedroom, which could indicate the cleanup of a crime scene. Police have said they found blood in the bedroom and bathroom of the apartment.


  9. #9
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    James Hawkins Found Guilty of Murder

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A jury returned a guilty verdict Friday for James Hawkins in the 2008 death and dismemberment of his estranged girlfriend Charlene Gaither.

    Hawkins was found guilty of First Degree Murder, Filing a False Report and Abuse of a Corpse. He faces life in prison, life in prison without parole or the death penalty. It took a jury of seven women and five men just under two hours to deliver their verdict.

    While Hawkins maintained his then 12-year old daughter with the victim committed the murder, prosecutors convinced the jury through police testimony, forensics experts and the daughter's own account that Hawkins stabbed and strangled Gaither, then forced their daughter to help cut up and dispose of the body.

    The girl said she saw her father stab and strangle her mother on Feb. 9, 2008. She said Hawkins threatened her with a knife to force her to help him put the body in a freezer and later cut it up. She said she had to hold the head as Hawkins severed it.

    His two sons testified that their father took them to a Kmart to buy a circular saw the day of the murder and they helped him throw away a mattress from the couple's bedroom. Hawkins later went back to the Kmart and returned the saw.

    A highway crew in DeSoto County, Miss., found Gaither's headless body, which also was missing hands and feet, on the banks of the Coldwater River on Valentine's Day 2008. Hawkins didn't testify.

    Hawkins ordered his two sons to sit in the car for three hours while he took apart the body in a bathtub. Police found blood in a bathroom and the master bedroom, where a piece of the carpet had been removed.

    Outside the courtroom, relatives of Gaither wept loudly and hugged each other. A prosecutor said the jury clearly believed the children's testimony.

    "They were completely truthful and forthright," prosecutor Jennifer Nichols said outside the courtroom.

    Defense attorney Gerald Skahan said he was surprised by the speed of the verdict. Jesse Thomas, an uncle of Hawkins', said he had no other choice than to accept the jury's verdict.

    "Justice has been done," Thomas said.

    Louis Irvin, the father of Charlene Gaither, said he was relieved the verdict was guilty.

    "My family has been tortured and burdened for three years," Irvin said.

    After a recess, the sentencing phase of the trial resumed Friday afternoon. Gaither's sister took the stand, but became too emotional to continue her testimony.

    During the murder trial, the daughter also testified that when she was 12 she was repeatedly sexually abused by Hawkins, who had reconciled with Gaither after serving time in prison. James Hawkins is still facing trial for the child rape charges.


  10. #10
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    James Hawkins sentenced to death in Memphis dismemberment murder trial

    By Lawrence Buser
    The Memphis Commercial Appeal

    After a week of hearing nightmarish testimony about murder, dismemberment and incest, a jury Saturday sentenced defendant James Hawkins to death for killing the mother of his three children.

    The seven women and five men deliberated just under two hours before returning their decision at 6:30 p.m. in Criminal Court.

    Hawkins, a 33-year-old warehouse worker and ex-convict, showed no outward emotion as Judge Chris Craft read his punishment aloud in the courtroom packed with relatives of Hawkins and the victim, Charlene Gaither.

    "I got some justice for my child, for my baby," said the victim's father, Louis Irvin, with tears welling up in his eyes. "We've got to stop some of this violence and hatred. I just thank God for giving me the strength to finish this. Sometimes it's hard being a Christian."

    Gaither, 28, a caregiver at an adult vocational center, was stabbed, strangled and dismembered by Hawkins on Feb. 9, 2008, in their Raleigh apartment.

    Hawkins did not testify, but told police his 12-year-old daughter killed her mother and that he dismembered and disposed of the body only to cover for her.

    The judge did not set an execution date, telling Hawkins only that it was to be carried out at the completion of his appeals. "May God have mercy on your soul," Craft said.

    State prosecutors Missy Branham, Jennifer Nichols and Marianne Bell had asked for the death penalty based on two statutory aggravating factors -- the mutilation of Gaither's body after death and Hawkins' 17 prior convictions for aggravated robberies and aggravated assaults.

    He served about 10 years of a 15-year sentence and was paroled in September of 2007.

    In the trial, Hawkins' own three children testified against him, including his 15-year-old daughter who witnessed the murder and who told of near-daily sexual molestation by her father when she was 12.

    "For the kids, the jury spoke for your mother," said Bell, "and for what you went through and for what your mother went through."

    Jurors convicted Hawkins of first-degree murder on Friday and in the sentencing hearing that immediately followed the defense maintained that he had been a model prisoner in jail and that life in prison would be an appropriate punishment.

    "He helps other inmates in decision-making, in deciding right from wrong," defense mitigation specialist Jeannette Stanback testified Saturday. "He gives the younger inmates the benefit of his experience."

    She said Hawkins has accumulated many self-improvement program-participation certificates while in jail awaiting trial, including one for "Real Talk," "Life Skills" and one for "300 Days of No Physical Violence."

    Hawkins also is artistic, is a mentor and is a writer, she added, noting a poem she said he gave her several weeks ago.

    The poem read in part: "I can move forward with determination and faith that my best days are ahead. ...I am more aware of peace and love that are more of my true nature. ... I'm living in the now, letting the divine light shine ....James Hawkins."

    Prosecutors reminded jurors, however, of the 17 victims Hawkins robbed and assaulted and of the murder and mutilation of Charlene Gaither and of their three traumatized children left behind.

    "This is not a homeless and deserted and pitiful person over here," Branham told the jury, pointing at Hawkins.

    "He was loved and protected. . .He did not provide love. He took it away."

    Hawkins will join 88 other condemned prisoners on Tennessee's death row in Nashville, including 34 others from Shelby County.

    Tennessee has carried out six executions since 2000, the last being in February of 2009.


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