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Father found guilty in beating death of son

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

A jury has found a father guilty of beating his son to death.

27-year-old Andre Hampton is guilty of beating his 23-month-old son Elijah Burger over a two-day period in 2008. Elijah was found inside an extended stay motel where the family was living on South Tryon Street.

Hampton was charged with two counts felony child abuse and first degree murder.

At about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, the judge gave the jury their pre-deliberation instructions. The jury then began deliberations, but jurors were unable to reach a consensus before the end of the day.

Jurors were back in deliberations at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday and reached their verdict by 11 a.m.

During Tuesday’s closing, Defense Attorney Norman Butler said Hampton’s intent was not to commit torture. He also reiterated Hampton’s history of being abused.

Butler said, “Did Mr. Hampton love Elijah? He told you he did. He said he (Elijah) was the best thing that ever happened to him.”

The Defense also said Hampton testified because he wanted the truth to be known. Butler said Hampton got caught up in trying to make his son strong, to make him eat.

“On the day in question was he out of control? Sure. But is that really torture?”

Butler said Hampton “reacted like he was taught” and said there was no proof Hampton intended to kill Elijah.

ADA Bill Bunting made his closing as well Tuesday morning.

Bunting started swinging a belt, and hit the table with it a couple of times. He then said “he (Hampton) says 30 of those.”

Bunting pointed at Hampton and said, “he put a pillow over his (Elijah’s) mouth to muffle his screams.”

Then Bunting said Elijah tried to crawl away, tried to hide under a table to “escape this man’s torture”.

Bunting showed before and after photos and said “my jobs is to try to make you understand how you go from the child on the left to the child on the right”… “He (Hampton) admitted what he couldn’t deny.”

“We can’t begin to understand the hell Elijah went through that day.”

During the defense presentation Monday, Hampton admitted to beating Elijah because he wouldn’t eat.

On the stand, Hampton said, “He was underweight, I thought I was doing the right thing…I just wanted the best for him I should say.”

Hampton said when he beat Elijah, the toddler didn’t cry so he hit him again. To the prosecuting attorney, Hampton admitted he intentionally hit Elijah with a belt, toothbrush, and hairbrush. He also admitted Elijah cried so loud that he put a pillow over his mouth to keep the neighbors from hearing.

Hampton told the prosecutor he was stressed and worried he couldn’t provide for Elijah. He said he didn’t have enough money or time to sleep.

Prosecutor Bill Bunting: “You had money to buy beer, cigarettes, and weed didn’t you Mr. Hampton?”

“Yes sir,” Hampton answered.

Bunting asked Hampton if he cried when he hit Elijah. Hampton responded “no sir”.

He said he should have thought twice, “I didn’t think, I just reacted. I don’t know what came over me.”

Hampton said Elijah was everything he wanted to be, he choked up on the stand as he described his child as a “good kid, a good kid”.

The defense attorney asked Hampton, “When Elijah was born, how did you feel?”

Hampton responded Elijah was “like a dream come true”.

Hampton’s twin brother and younger sister also took the stand. The two testified to beatings by their mother and their mother’s boyfriends during their childhood. An expert witness says Hampton suffers from anxiety, depression and a form of PTSD.

In court Thursday (February 28), Elijah’s 10-year-old half-sister took the stand. She described witnessing Hampton beat her little brother with a belt “hard”.

The girl was calm, but appeared uncomfortable at times and mostly answered yes or no questions. She smiled and answered “yes” when prosecutors asked if Elijah was a good baby brother.

Prosecutors also played the hour-long taped interview she gave police when she was 6 years old. 

She told detectives that Hampton beat Elijah on his feet and body with a belt and used a toothbrush to hit his knuckles. She said Hampton made them both hold a “push up position” for long periods of time.

She said Hampton then put Elijah in the bathtub. 

“He was floating and he had to sit down in the water, something was wrong with his eye…he didn’t blink. Andre said ‘stop drinking the water!'” she said on the videotape.

The defense did not ask her any questions during cross-examination.

Jurors also viewed autopsy pictures of Elijah that showed black and blue marks over his entire body, including his face, feet, back and hands. The pictures also show strap marks on his body.

Hampton would not look at the pictures in court and broke down in tears and shouted out “I’m sorry, oh my goodness, I’m sorry.”

On Wednesday, jurors watched more of Hampton’s interview with CMPD homicide detective Bill Ward.

During the interview, Hampton says he beat Elijah with a belt and hairbrush because he wouldn’t eat his soup. He later says he put Elijah in the bathtub to sooth him, and noticed the child couldn’t stand. He says he then laid him on the floor and saw the child was having trouble breathing. Hampton says he tried performing CPR, before asking Elijah’s 6 year old sister to call 911.

Seven jurors cried when they saw pictures of Elijah’s badly bruised body.
Prosecutors say he was beaten from head to toe. Defense attorneys acknowledge Hampton hit the child, but say he was also a victim of child abuse. They pointed out a portion of the interview where Hampton asked how Elijah was doing.

Last week, jurors heard from the prosecution and defense, as well as several witnesses.

First, Assistant District Attorney Bill Stetzer told jurors Hampton beat Elijah with a belt and hairbrush in 2008. He went on to describe the boy’s injuries.

Hampton’s defense then said that he was physically and mentally abused as a child, and that he was beaten with belts and radiator hoses.

The first witness, a CMPD Officer who responded to the call in 2008, said Elijah was covered in half-dollar sized bruises when officials arrived.

The second witness, from the Charlotte Fire Department, said that Elijah’s 6-year-old sister was hiding under a table when they arrived, and looked “absolutely terrified.” The girl was also said to have made the 911 call saying something was wrong with her brother.

One Homicide Detective who took the stand got choked up talking about the case. He said Hampton admitted to hitting the toddler 30 to 40 times with a belt, and 60 times with a toothbrush on his hands.

On February 11, Hampton’s attorneys, Norman Butler and Joe Von Kallist, filed several pre-trial motions to limit evidence and chart the course of the trial. Judge Forrest Bridges agreed with the defense team to limit some of the photographs showing Elijah’s body, for fear of playing on the jurors’ emotions.

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