Monday, November 23, 2009

Jennifer Hampton: Murdered by Illegal Immigrant

Valentino Vasquez Miranda had migrated to the United States illegally and, like the Guatemalan immigrant of our earlier tale, was living with a common-law wife over whom he exerted total control. Miranda and Rosa Rodriguez Hernandez shared a room at the Days Inn on South Lovell Road in Knoxville, the motel at which the Florence Mama Blues' employees were housed during their stay. When Jennifer Lee Hampton entered Room 148 on the night of September 19, 2008, she had no idea it was to become her death chamber.

Nick Patel, m
anager of the Days Inn, had hired the 19 year-old Miranda and 38 year-old Rogelio Dominguez Melchor to do maintenance work at the motel. Both immigrants presented illegal social security cards--a fact that Patel vehemently hangs on to in his assertion of total lack of responsibility in the crime. Both Miranda and Melchor possessed key cards allowing them entrance into the guests' rooms. As recently as the week before, a female patron had complained of Valentino Miranda entering her room in the middle of the night, but management refused to respond to her charges.

Sometime after 3:00 a.m. on the morning of September 20th, Miranda entered Jennifer's room with the intention of raping her. Miranda is the only living person who knows what happened next, but forensic pathologists have stated that the former Waterloo homecoming queen put up a prolonged fight. When a shaken fisherman found her nude body seven days later in Melton Hill Lake, Jennifer was missing a tooth, showed marked defensive wounds, and signs of sexual attack and strangulation.

Now, with a body in their possession, the Knoxville authorities arrested Miranda, charging him with First Degree Murder. Hernandez had willingly handed over the bloody clothes Valentino Miranda had worn that night, and semen from the sexual assault kit matched Miranda. The Knox County District Attorney announced that it would, in effect, be a slam dunk case. We hope so.

Photo by J. Miles Cary

Tomorrow: Jennifer Hampton comes home for the last time