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After discovering the remains of a missing woman weeks after she texted a friend in distress upon leaving a bar with two men, Alabama police have an arrest warrant for a registered sex offender they believe is connected to the death of Paighton Houston.
Fredrick Hampton, 50, is wanted on the charge of abusing a corpse. He is not being charged with Houston's murder, as Jefferson County Sheriff's Office officials noted that the cause and manner of death were not immediately evident in the preliminary autopsy. The toxicology report, among other findings, will not be available for several more weeks.
"What we know is that no physical trauma to the body of the victim would have led to her death," Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chief David Agee said in a news conference on January 16.
"We have evidence that the victim and the offender were together the night of Dec. 20, 2019. We have evidence that the victim died the next day at a house on McClain Street in Brighton. We have evidence that after the victim died, her body was disposed of in a criminal manner by Fredrick Hampton," Agee said.
Abusing a corpse in the state of Alabama is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in state prison. Authorities do not have any other suspects at this time.
Hampton is also accused of violating the Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act, but the exact violation was not specified.
"This offender is responsible for this crime, disposing of this corpse in this manner," Agee said. "Additional charges are possible depending on what evidence becomes available. As of right now, this is where we stand, and we want to get him into custody."
Houston, 29, went missing on Dec. 20, 2019, last seen leaving the Tin Roof bar in Birmingham with two men. In the press conference, Agee did not indicate whether or not Hampton was one of the men Houston reportedly left the bar with.
In a Facebook post, her mother, Charlaine Houston, said that her daughter managed to send a text message to a friend indicating that she was in trouble.
"If I call answer, I don't know these people and I feel in trouble," the text read, according to Charlaine.
The house was not currently occupied, and neighbors told AL.com that the last resident had been an elderly man who moved out some time ago.
Upon recovering Houston's body, her mother wrote an emotional message on Facebook.
"Our family didn't get the news we had hoped for but I am very grateful that Paighton is coming home," she wrote. "We don't have to go through the torture of not knoing what was happening to her or where she could be. God answered our prayers, he brought her home to us."
Hampton was previously convicted on rape and sodomy charges in the first degree in 1992, according to AL.com. He served over 20 years in prison before his release in March 2012. He was also charged with kidnapping, but it was later dismissed.
Shortly after he completed his time, he was arrested for failing to provide his new address to authorities, a legal requirement for convicted sex offenders. He entered a guilty plea in September 2012 and was dealt a two-year suspended sentence.
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