BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A convicted sex offender has been charged in connection with the disappearance of an Alabama woman whose body was found in a shallow grave weeks after she texted a friend she was “in trouble."
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office charged Fredrick Hampton, 50, on Thursday with abuse of Paighton Houston's corpse. Hampton hasn't been charged with involvement in the 29-year-old's death, news outlets reported. He hasn't yet surrendered to authorities.
Hampton was initially held in the Birmingham City Jail beginning Dec. 28 on suspicion of kidnapping, but he was released two days later after investigators failed to gather enough evidence to charge him with a crime, news outlets reported.
The sheriff's office said it has evidence Hampton and Houston were together Dec. 20, the night she disappeared after leaving a Birmingham bar with two men, Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief David Agee said in a news conference Thursday. Family members told news outlets Houston sent a text to a friend that night asking the person to answer if she called because she didn't know who she was with, texting “I feel in trouble."
Her body was found Jan. 3 wrapped in a cloth in the grave outside a Hueytown home linked to Hampton, the Trussville Police Department said at the time.
The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office has not yet determined the cause and manner of Houston's death as they await additional testing, including toxicology results, according to the office. But Agee said preliminary results show there was no physical trauma to the body that would have led to her death. There is evidence Houston died the day after she was last seen, Agee added.
Hampton was previously convicted in 1992 on first-degree rape and first-degree sodomy charges, according to Jefferson County records obtained by news outlets. He served 20 years in prison before his release in 2012.