Saturday, June 11, 2011

James Hawkins found guilty of killing and dismembering his girlfriend as he forced their daughter to watch (made her hold the head as he severed it)

A father could face the death penalty after killing his girlfriend in front of his daughter and forcing her to help him cut up her own mother's body.

In an extraordinary court case in Memphis, the 15-year-old girl testified that she witnessed her own father, James Hawkins, 33, kill and dismember her mother, 28-year-old Charlene Gaither.

It took the jury just two hours to find Hawkins guilty of the murder in February 2008 after testimony from three of his own children. The jury will now decide whether he should be sentenced to death.

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.

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.

The chief witness against Hawkins was his 15-year-old daughter. She testified that when she was 12 she was repeatedly sexually abused by Hawkins, who had reconciled with Gaither after serving time in prison.

The girl said she saw her father stab and strangle her mother on February 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 was made to hold the head as Hawkins severed it, she added.

His two sons testified that their father took them to a Kmart to buy a circular saw the day of the murder and that 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. Read More