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Crime News Cold Cases

DNA On Makeshift Sweet Potato Silencer Leads To Arrest In 12-Year-Old Cape Cod Cold Case

Devarus Hampton, long considered a suspect in the 2011 shooting death of Todd Lampley, has now been charged with murder after DNA from a sweet potato used as a silencer during the crime was matched to a sample collected from Hampton.

By Christina Coulter
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DNA evidence left behind on a sweet potato has allegedly helped investigators in Cape Cod crack a 12-year-old cold case.

Devarus Hampton of Mashpee, Massachusetts, now 40, was charged with murder, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on Friday, nearly 12 years after prosecutors allege he shot dead 31-year-old Todd Lampley through the victim's bedroom window in Hyannis, according to a Barnstable Police Department press release.

Upon arriving at the scene on Feb. 27, 2011, first responders found that Lampley had been shot multiple times and declared him dead. Authorities recovered three shell casings and a sweet potato that had been perforated by a bullet, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by local outlet Hyannis News

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"The sweet potato appears to be used as a silencer," First Assistant District Attorney Jessica Elumba, the prosecutor in the case against Hampton, told ABC News.

Elumba said during Hampton's arraignment on Monday that Hampton appeared to be inspired to use the gun accessory by the HBO police drama "The Wire," which led to numerous YouTube recreations after the method was featured in the show's fourth season.

In another connection to "The Wire," according to ABC News, a black burner cellphone recovered at the scene — which was later linked back to Hampton — was registered to "Marlo Stanfield," a fictional drug kingpin on the show.

In 2018, state police handed over the potato to private lab Cybergenetics, which found a match between touch DNA on the root vegetable and a DNA sample secretly collected by.a detective who watched Hampton "spit phlegm into a small puddle" outside a Cape Cod rehab facility in 2016, according to the affidavit.

Prosecutors laid out other evidence in the affidavit that they say point to Hampton's alleged guilt.

When investigators examined a gun recovered by two civilians in a pond close to the Hyannis residence where Lampley was killed, they discovered "rounds [that] match the shell casings" found at the crime scene. 

Hampton was wearing a court-ordered ankle monitor at the time of the killing, according to the arrest affidavit, and had been arraigned for 62 different offenses in his adult life, including multiple charges of threatening to commit murder and for the rape of a child in 2008 (for which he was found guilty).

GPS coordinates pulled from the monitor by investigator placed Hampton both at Lampley's home at the time of his murder and, the day after the shooting, at the pond where the gun was recovered.

It is unclear why police waited until now to arrest Hampton.

"I can't make a specific comment on the delay," Assistant District Attorney Russell Eonas told the Cape Cod Times. "The evidence was assessed as of now."

Lampley had a previous connection to Hampton before the killing. According to earlier reporting by the Cape Cod Times, Hampton testified in court in 2010 that Lampley was involved in the 2007 murder of 18-year-old Jacques Sellers.

Hampton entered a not-guilty plea for the charges involving Lampley's death in Barnstable District Court on Monday, and is being held without bail. His next scheduled court appearance is on April 5.

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