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DNA found on a sweet potato helps Massachusetts police solve 12-year-old cold case murder


More than a decade after 31-year-old Todd Lampley was fatally shot in a Massachusetts home, authorities have arrested and charged a suspect who was identified with the help of DNA found on a sweet potato found at the scene, court records show.

Devarus Hampton, 40, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of murder and assault with a dangerous weapon, Barnstable District Court records show. It was exactly 12 years after the February 27, 2011, killing in the village of Hyannis.

On the night of the Lampley’s death, investigators found shell casings and a sweet potato on the ground outside the window of the bedroom where he was shot, an arrest affidavit from the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office states.

“Investigators believe that this potato was used as a silencing device to muffle the sound of gunshots,” Lt. Matthew Lavoie with the Massachusetts State Police wrote in the affidavit.

The potato was cut flat on one end, appeared to have a hole carved through its center and was “blown out and irregular” on one end, according to the affidavit.

Though it would be years until investigators could connect Hampton to DNA on the sweet potato, they uncovered several other pieces of evidence, the affidavit lays out.

Phone records reviewed by investigators showed Hampton had exchanged more than a dozen calls and texts with a man who was in the house with Lampley at the time of the killing, including in the minutes before and after the shooting, the affidavit said.

Hampton was also wearing a GPS monitoring bracelet at the time of the killing as part of his probation in an unrelated case, the affidavit said. Location records from the bracelet showed Hampton was around the house at the time of the shooting, it said.

A few days after the shooting, Hampton was arrested in an unrelated case and refused to speak to investigators when asked about the Lampley case, the affidavit said.

In 2016, authorities got a DNA sample from Hampton without his knowledge by collecting some of his phlegm that he spit into a puddle, according to the affidavit. An outside lab found a very high probability the DNA profiles from a swab of the sweet potato and Hampton’s spit matched, the affidavit said.

CNN has reached out to the district attorney’s office and police about the delay in charging Hampton, who was not arrested until Monday, court records show.

Hampton is being held without bail and is scheduled to return to court for a probable cause hearing on April 5.