The last of six suspects charged in connection to the April 16 shooting death of Benzel Hampton in Burlington’s Old North End pleaded not guilty Friday.
James Felix, who is still recovering from wounds he received in the shooting, was arraigned at UVM Medical Center on charges of aiding in the commission of second-degree murder.
According to court documents, Felix knocked Hampton to the ground in a driveway on North Willard Street just before two Florida men, Johnny Ford and Brandon Sanders, opened fire on Hampton.
Ford, 32, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder on Thursday. Brandon Sanders, 18, the third man who police say attacked Hampton as he exited a residence, also pleaded not guilty Thursday. he has been charged with aiding in the commission of second-degree murder.
Ford, Sanders and Felix are all from Florida. Ford and Felix have lengthy criminal records, according to Orange County, Florida, court filings.
Police say three guns they believe were used that day have been recovered. Two of the handguns — a 380 caliber and a .22 calilber — were found in a wooded area near Burlington.
Police say the shot to the head that likely killed Hampton came from the .22, which was allegedly fired by Ford. Sanders was allegedly armed with the .380 — slugs from that gun were also found in Hampton’s body.
A .40 caliber handgun found at the scene belonged to Hampton, police say, and was used to shoot and wound Felix.
“We believe it was Mr. Hampton,” said Chittenden County Deputy State’s Attorney Justin Jiron. “Not all those facts have come to light yet, so once they do we have to talk more about them.”
Three women were charged in the case.
Angelina Pearson-Fitzpatrick, who allegedly helped Ford and Sanders flee to Connecticut, where they were arrested, has pleaded not guilty to being an accessory to the fact.
Takesha Thomas was accused of helping dispose of clothing worn by Ford, agreed this week to plead guilty to the lesser charge of providing false statements.
Felix’s girlfriend, Lesine Woodson, who witnesses said is related to Sanders, has pleaded not guilty to aiding in the commission of second-degree murder.