Hammond guilty in baby’s death

James. E. Hammond

DOVER — A 48-year-old Harrington man faces at least 10 years in prison after being convicted of murder by abuse in the death of a 7-month-old girl at his home three years ago.

James E. Hammond was handcuffed and led from the courtroom Wednesday morning after bail was revoked for the second-degree felony offense. A pre-sentence investigation was ordered and up to 25 years incarceration are possible at sentencing on Jan. 24, 2018 in Superior Court.

Aubri N. Thompson, of Dover, died after receiving multiple blunt force trauma wounds to the head while Mr. Hammond cared for her on Feb. 27, 2014, according to the prosecution. She was pronounced dead the next day when taken to Milford Memorial Hospital in an unresponsive state.
The seven-woman, five-man jury returned its decision at 10:30 a.m. after beginning deliberations on Tuesday afternoon following closing summations by attorneys.

The late baby’s family declined comment afterward.

Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. ordered the Delaware Department of Correction to place Mr. Hammond in a facility that provided a “suitable protective environment. …

“I want to see the safety of Mr. Hammond protected.”

With his elbow on the table, the defendant placed his hand onto his forehead and looked downward when the verdict was read by the jury forewoman, slightly and briefly rocking his head from side to side while remaining stoic.

Hammond was indicted on a first-degree murder by abuse charged that could have brought 15 years to life in prison. He rejected a plea deal to a second-degree offense last week, which the jury convicted him on Wednesday as a lesser option.

Deputy Attorneys General Stephen R. Welch and Stephen E. Smith prosecuted the case. Attorney P. Scott Wilson represented Hammond.

Prosecutors pointed to supposedly incriminating text messages Hammond sent to his girlfriend as police began to investigate. The texts showed him pushing for her and three children at the home not to speak about the incident, along with pleas for forgiveness about his actions.

Investigators believe the baby’s injuries were inflicted as Hammond watched her at his home in the 200 block of Commerce Street. The child had a cold later diagnosed as the flu whens dropped off two days earlier by her parents who were about to take a vacation cruise to the Bahamas. Hammond’s girlfriend was the baby’s great aunt.

The defendant claimed that the infant fell from a crib and became wedged between a bed, but no severe injuries resulted. Prosecutors maintained the child would have been unable to leave the crib based on her age and development.

At closings, the defense pointed suspicion toward Hammond’s girlfriend, and prosecutors argued that all the evidence pointed toward him.

Shortly after deliberations began Tuesday, the jury sent a note asking “Can the defendant be guilty of more than one count?” Judge Witham call the jury into the courtroom and re-read parts of its instruction in an attempt to clarify the possibility of lesser offenses as part of the same count.

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