Sweet Potato Leads to Arrest in Massachusetts Cold Case

Officials were able to match DNA from the root vegetable left at the scene with suspect
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2023 11:10 AM CST
Sweet Potato Leads to Arrest in Massachusetts Cold Case
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Olga Guchek)

After Todd Lampley was shot in the bedroom of a Massachusetts home on February 27, 2011, police recovered evidence outside the bedroom window: shell casings, a cellphone, and a sweet potato. Twelve years later, there's finally an arrest in the case, and authorities say DNA left on that sweet potato was instrumental. Devarus Hampton, 40, has been charged with murder and assault with a dangerous weapon and on Monday pleaded not guilty. CNN offers an explanation for the presence of the vegetable at the scene in Hyannis via an arrest affidavit.

Per the document, the potato had been cut flat on one end, was "blown out and irregular" on the other, and seemed to have a hole going through its middle. "Investigators believe that this potato was used as a silencing device to muffle the sound of gunshots," the affidavit reads. First Assistant District Attorney Jessica Elumba indicated in court that the idea may have stemmed from the TV show The Wire, which contains a scene where a sweet potato is used as a silencer. It wasn't the only reference to the TV show, reports the Cape Cod Times: The phone found at the scene was registered to "Marlo Stanfield," a character from the show.

Per the affidavit, Hampton spit in a puddle in 2016, and authorities collected that phlegm and ran DNA tests on it. Additional evidence in the case included phone records showing calls and texts between Hampton and a man in the home with Lampley just prior to and after the killing, per the affidavit, as well as location data from a GPS monitoring bracelet Hampton was wearing that placed him near the scene. Officials haven't explained the reason for the delay in arresting Hampton, who has an April 5 court date. (This cold case was solved using a 52-year-old piece of evidence.)

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