Woman pleads not guilty to helping Old North End murder suspects

Local News

A 26-year old Florida woman pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges related to last week’s fatal shooting in Burlington’s Old North End.

Takesha Thomas is one of six people either charged or facing charges in connection to the shooting of Benzel Hampton, 23, who died April 16 in the driveway of a residence on North Willard Street.

Prosecutors accuse Thomas of accessory after the fact for assisting by two men charged with second-degere murder in Hampton’s death — Johnny Ford, 32, Brandon Sanders, 18.

Ford and Sanders are awaiting extradition from Connecticut, where they were arrested.

James Felix, 36, also faces second-degree murder charges. He is at University of Vermont Medical Center recovering from gunshot wounds he suffered during the incident.

Lesine Woodson, 32, has also been charged with second degree murder. She has pleaded not guilty.

Angelina Pearson-Fitzpatrick, 54, of Burlington, also faces charges of accessory after the fact. Her arraignment was postponed Tuesday for medical reasons.

According to court documents, Thomas and Pearson-Fitzpatrick drove 10- 20 minutes away from the shooting scene and disposed of a garbage bag containing clothing worn by Sanders and Ford.

They were told to “put it in a dumpster somewhere,” according to police affidavits.

Thomas admitted to police that she threw out the garbage bag, but said she didn’t know what was inside. Pearson-Fitzpatrick declined to speak with police.

The women are also accused of helping Sanders and Ford flee to southern New England and reserving a hotel room under Thomas’ relative’s name.

Police say the shooting was drug-related and crack cocaine was found on Hampton’s body.

A witness told police two of the men involved were known to be part of a Florida-based group that sells crack cocaine and heroin in Chittenden County.

Hampton’s girlfriend told police someone called Hampton and threatened to shoot him the morning of April 16.

“Benzel passed it off as a joke,” according to the police affidavit. “[The girlfriend] said Benzel had received threats from Brandon, a nephew of Lesine Woodson in the past. [She] said she was unsure what caused the past dispute between them.”

Local 22 & Local 44 News learned Tuesday a .22 caliber and a .380 caliber pistol, police say, are connected to the shooting were found in a wooded area near Burlington.

Thomas is being held on $25,000 bail.

Thomas and Pearson-Fitzpatrick face up to seven years in prison.

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