To call the murder “brutal” is an understatement. To say the victim was “terrorized” is using a mild euphemism. The truth is, writing about the Tennessee murder of 21-year-old Jennifer Hampton is difficult, as it cannot convey the horror, the evil. And her killers may not receive justice.
They probably spotted Jennifer as she came in and out of her first floor hotel room. They were both employees at the Knoxville hotel where Jennifer was staying on a business trip. Jennifer was pretty, with thick brown hair and deep brown eyes; she had been the Homecoming Queen at her little high school in Florence, Alabama. Valentino Miranda, 19 years old, certainly noticed Jennifer; he and his wife lived and worked at the hotel. Rogelio Melchor noticed her. He worked at the hotel. Jennifer planned to leave that weekend, to be home by Sunday. She last spoke to her mom on Friday. “I love you,” her momma told her that Friday night as they hung up the phone. And then on Saturday, September 20, 2008, Jennifer was reported missing (sources).
Jennifer “Jenny” Hampton had acted in high school plays. She loved history. She wasn’t a show off or a drama queen, but she had many pals. She loved going to school games. She was close to her family and still spent social time with them, unlike many young people. She was from a small town where everyone knew each other. “Country” they jokingly called her at work for her thick Alabama accent, and she’d grin back. Jenny did not drink, did not go near drugs, and did not even smoke cigarettes. She focused on work and school. She had recently opened a letter congratulating her on acceptance into a Nursing Program, “hollarin’” with delight, as they say in the south. “She wanted to help people,” her friends said.
She was found in a lake five miles away from the hotel on September 27. She had been gang raped. She had been strangled. She had been attacked so viciously her teeth were broken. She had been dumped like garbage. While her high school chums were releasing balloons with hopeful messages attached, ‘come home soon,’ she lay floating in a cold lake, alone.
Arrests were made quickly. Valentino Miranda had stolen his wife’s passkey and broken into Jenny’s room. Rogelio Melchor was also arrested, along with another man, as “persons of interest” in the crime. The 5’3”, 110-pound girl was no match for three sadistic, brutal men. Attacked in the darkness, unaware, she had no chance.
It gets murkier. On April 20, 2008, two females had notified the police a man, matching Miranda’s description, used a passkey to enter their hotel in an attempt to sexually assault them. When one girl screamed, he fled. Master keys to hotel rooms, evidently, were not monitored. The manager may have covered for Miranda (source). Despite a lawsuit filed and won by the Hampton’s against the hotel, a reliable source confides Jenny’s mother is in and out of the hospital, so distraught in losing her daughter. The family attorney in the lawsuit was later charged with theft and forgery.
Now two of the “persons of interest” have fled, one to Mexico. Only Miranda remains in custody. According to Jenny’s friend, “He was offered a plea of 51 years with parole if he told who had helped him in the crime within 7 days, if not the charges were to be reinstated. 1,085 days later since Jennifer’s murder he has not said who helped him and the charges are not reinstated” (source). A source confided to this writer, “Jenny’s mom cries and cries, ‘what if my daughter’s killers get out of this?’” At this writing, the family awaits answers as to what Valentino Miranda’s punishment will be – the sole perpetrator in custody for their daughter’s horrific torture and death.
On Jenny’s myspace she had typed: “Life is too short to hold grudges so love the people that treat you right and ignore the people that don’t.”
To be continued…
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The ABC News story HERE