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Sweet potato helps solve Massachusetts cold case murder after 12 years

Oliver Helbig/Getty Images

(CAPE COD, Mass.) — Twelve years after a shooting death on Cape Cod, the alleged killer was caught, in part, thanks to a root vegetable used in the commission of the crime, according to prosecutors.


On Feb. 27, 2011, Todd Lampley was found shot to death in a Hyannis, Massachusetts, home.

Devarus Hampton, 40, was arrested Friday in Massachusetts and was arraigned Monday — exactly 12 years after the crime. Hampton pleaded not guilty and was held without bail.

At the time of the murder, police found three shell casings and a sweet potato with a hole in it at the scene, according to a prosecutor with the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors said they found DNA on the sweet potato that was a match for Hampton.

“The sweet potato appears to be used as a silencer,” the prosecutor, First Assistant District Attorney Jessica Elumba, told ABC News.

Fans of the HBO drama series “The Wire” may recall an episode in which a sweet potato was used as a silencer, spawning numerous internet demonstrations to test whether it actually worked. The alleged killer may have been a fan of the show because police also found a cellphone at the murder scene registered in the name of Marlo Stanfield, a fictional character on “The Wire.”

“It’s an interesting fact pattern,” Elumba said in a phone interview.

In court, Elumba said there is other evidence to place Hampton at the home at the time of Lampley’s shooting death but she declined to comment when asked why it took 12 years to make the arrest. Elumba said in court Monday that Hampton was wearing a GPS monitor from a different crime at the time of the shooting, which placed him at the scene. The gun allegedly used in the crime was also fished out of a nearby lake, prosecutors said.

Hampton is due back in court in Barnstable County on April 5.

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