Crime

Vancleave mother wants to know why her son was killed

Vancleave mother wants to ask son’s alleged killer one thing

Darlene Hughes remembers Eric Wendell Hampton as a person everyone liked.
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Darlene Hughes remembers Eric Wendell Hampton as a person everyone liked.

Darlene Hughes says she can’t understand why her son was killed at a nearby home in a small community of relatives and extended family members who live along McGregor Road.

Her son, Eric Wendell Hampton, had moved back home with her and her husband, Robert, a few months earlier.

Before that, the couple had allowed Mose Ben Wells to live with them a few months, “but we had to put him out,” Hughes said. “He tried to take over.”

Hampton, 39, and Wells, 57, called each other Cuz or Cousin, but they may have been only distantly related, she said. Both men were drinkers, but Wells was known to drink heavily, Hughes said.

Wells was arrested on a murder charge after Hampton died of a gunshot to the back Aug. 22. Wells is accused in Hampton’s killing in the home of one of Wells’ relatives.

I want to look him in his face and say, ‘Why, Mose? Why?’ It was all for nothing.

Darlene Hughes, mother of Eric Wendell Hampton

Hughes described her son as a fun-loving people person who loved to sing and rap. He wasn’t a fighter, she said, and she’d never known him to carry a gun.

Hughes said she and her husband had taken Wells in when he had been sleeping in a car with broken-out windows while ice was on the ground and he had a quilt over the windows to keep him warm.

“Mose and I go way back,” she said. “I want to look him in his face and say, ‘Why, Mose? Why?’ It was all for nothing.”

A knife, alcohol and a gun

Wells had recently moved into a cousin’s home down the road. Several men who often gather to hang out and drink alcohol had gathered at the house that night, Hughes said.

Jackson County sheriff’s officials have said Wells and Hampton had been arguing for several days.

Hughes said her son told her everything, but she wasn’t aware of an ongoing argument. She said her son had told her Wells had gotten mad because Hampton “was going in his (cooking) pots. If people are drinking, they want food. The pots belonged to the man who owns the house and he didn’t have a problem with my son being there.”

“He came home and told me Mose had drawn a knife on him,” she said. “I told him to not go back to the house, but he did it anyway.”

Hampton had had trouble finding a job, she said, but he’d been paid for lawn-mowing work. He took a case of beer and a jug of vodka to the home where Wells was living, his mother said.

“That’s what the men in the neighborhood do,” she said. “My son had been drinking what they had provided and he felt like it was his turn to provide since he’d just been paid.”

The man who owns the home has dwarfism.

“He’s a midget,” Hughes said. “When he gets to drinking, his legs buckle.”

Hughes said she’s been told her son had picked up the inebriated homeowner and put him on his couch at the man’s request when Wells shot Hampton with the homeowner’s gun.

“It’s pretty cowardly to shoot somebody in the back, don’t you think?” Hughes said.

She’s been told Hampton gave the homeowner a thumbs up when the man rolled him over and told him he’d be OK. Hampton died at a hospital.

Grew up hustling

Hampton was a hustler growing up, his mother said, working odd jobs to make money.

“We bought a lawn mower when he was 10 years old and he figured out he could go around to neighbors’ houses and cut grass for money,” Hughes said.

Hampton had wanted a pair of Nike Jordans. He bought himself a pair of the shoes and name-brand gifts for his three siblings.

He had started the 12th grade when he skipped town and married his sweetheart.

He later remarried and had three children, but he and his wife were separated. That’s why he had moved back home, the mother said.

Sheryl Leopard, one of Hughes’ high school classmates, said Hampton was a polite and respectful young man who said “yes ma’am and no ma’am” when he spoke to her.

Hughes said her son’s at peace now.

“But Mose won’t be at peace. It’s very hurtful.”

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