Six months later, still no arrest in Hampton murder

07/25/2013 2:30 PM |
PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Mourners clung to one another for support during a vigil in Riverhead after Demitri Hampton was killed in January.

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Mourners clung to one another for support during a vigil in Riverhead after Demitri Hampton was killed in January.

Jamal Davis says it seems like every day on the news he hears about someone getting hurt.

“There’s always something happening to somebody else,” he said. “So much happens every day. Someone killed in Brentwood, somebody killed somewhere else.”

He thinks about his brother, Demitri Hampton, the easygoing Suffolk County Community College student and Riverhead High School graduate, a former Blue Waves basketball player and beloved role model to his peers.

He said he tries not to think about the early January morning when two masked men stormed into his cousin’s house and shot and killed Mr. Hampton as he tried to fight them off.

Nearly six months later, Mr. Hampton’s murder has not been solved.

“It’s hard to grasp,” Mr. Davis said. “Demitri’s not the only person dying out there, but how do they find out who did it?”

Mr. Hampton was killed about 3 a.m. Jan. 27, when the two intruders burst through the front door of Mr. Hampton’s cousin’s house on Priscilla Avenue in Flanders.

[RELATED: Previous coverage of Demitri Hampton]

His cousin was sleeping inside, as was Mr. Hampton’s girlfriend.

Mr. Hampton was downstairs playing video games at the time of the break-in and rushed upstairs to confront the intruders, family members said. He fought with one of the men in the kitchen but was shot in the chest during the struggle.

The men quickly fled the scene and Mr. Hampton was rushed to the hospital, where he died from his injuries.

Mr. Hampton’s mother, Juanita Trent, said her family has begun “a phase of healing” since her son’s death.

“We don’t openly speak about it any more,” she said. “When we speak, we speak of the good times. We don’t speak of that night.”

Suffolk County police have declined to be interviewed about the case but said the investigation to find Mr. Hampton’s killers is active. They declined to provide further updates.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Demitri Hampon appeared on the cover of a Suffolk County Community College campus magazine in 2012.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Demitri Hampon appeared on the cover of a Suffolk County Community College campus magazine in 2012.

Ms. Trent said the detectives working the case have kept in touch with the family since the shooting, most recently at a fundraiser in May for a scholarship in Mr. Hampton’s honor.

“I’m not going to lie, I’m praying for justice,” Ms. Trent said. “I just want this closure for so many people, not just myself. For my children, for his friends. Nothing’s going to bring him back, but I still grieve.”

She said she prays to God to give the detectives the strength to catch her son’s killers.

“I want to keep praying for them to please get these people off the streets so no one else gets hurt,” she said. “That gun is still out there.”

Mr. Davis said he understands that the detectives are in a difficult situation.

“There’s only one homicide unit in Suffolk County,” Mr. Davis said. “It’s tough, I gotta put myself in their shoes.”

Hundreds rallied to support Mr. Hampton’s family after the murder, with vigils and ceremonies held in the ensuing weeks honoring the young man.

Theresa Drozd, a founder of the Riverhead schools’ anti-gang group Council for Unity, of which Mr. Hampton was a member, said the young man was a “super kid.”

“He had a heart of gold,” she said. “Always had a smile for somebody.”

She said it’s frustrating to know that Mr. Hampton’s killers have not been caught.

“It’s almost like you need closure,” she said. “And until you bring that person in, or those people in, and bring them to justice, you’re not going to get closure.”

More than 200 people crowded into Robert Ludlam Park in May to donate money for the DQH Memorial Scholarship that Mr. Hampton’s family established in his name.

Last month, the family was able to hand out the first of what they hope will be an annual award.

Two $500 scholarships were given to Nicole Mauro and Heather Zilnicki, Riverhead High School graduates who will be attending Suffolk County Community College in the fall.

“The scholarship ended up working out good,” Mr. Davis said. “I got to talk a little bit about Demitri and what a response we’ve gotten in our first year.”

Mr. Hampton’s mother used the scholarship as a project to occupy herself in the months following the shooting, Mr. Davis said. But Ms. Trent said the fundraiser also opened up old wounds, as she had to tell her son’s story over and over.

“The hardest part of that scholarship was going out, going to vendors and reliving everything,” she said.

With the fundraiser complete, Ms. Trent has focused her attention on renewing her wedding vows next month, a celebration they had planned before Mr. Hampton’s death.

Ms. Trent said she’ll have a purple ribbon at the ceremony, as a way to show Mr. Hampton is still with the family.

“It’s a celebration of life,” she said.

Since the shooting, Mr. Hampton’s cousin has moved back into the house where the home invasion occurred, Ms. Trent said.

She said she doesn’t fear staying in her house alone; God is protecting her, she said.

“You don’t walk in fear; that’s part of the Devil’s path,” she said. “I refuse to live my life that way.”

Still, Ms. Trent said she’s “missing a big chunk” of her family with Demitri’s death.

“I’m not the same person I was,” she said. “I can’t go back to that same person I was.”

Despite the fact that no arrests have been made in the case, Mr. Davis remains hopeful his brother’s killers will be found soon.

“Six months, you know?” he said. “It’s not too long yet.”

psquire@timesreview.com

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