Jury deliberates fate of woman accused of helping a convicted double killer evade capture

Mar. 8—LOCKPORT — A Niagara County Court jury has begun deliberating the fate of a Falls woman accused of helping a convicted double murderer evade police by driving him out of town.

The jury is weighing the fate of Jazzi Clay, 33, on a charge of hindering prosecution. Clay is accused of picking up convicted killer Billy Benton Jr. shortly after he gunned down a mother and son in Unity Park in May 2020, and then driving him to Ohio to avoid capture by Falls police.

Deliberations began around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, after a week-long trial. Clay has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Prosecutors and police have described Clay as "Benton's girlfriend."

Benton is serving a sentence of life in prison, without the possibility of parole, for the murders of Sonia Hamilton and her son, Brian Harris II. A jury took just two and a half hours to convict Benton in November 2021 on charges of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and multiple counts of criminal possession of a weapon.

The jury also found Benton guilty of first-degree assault and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon in connection with a shooting incident on Jan. 17, 2020 in the 900 block of Ontario Street. Falls police described that incident as "an armed robbery and shooting."

At Benton's sentencing, in February 2022, First Assistant District Attorney Doreen Hoffmann, a veteran homicide prosecutor, called his crime "the most brutal, horrific, senseless case that I've ever handled." Police investigators said Benton "slaughtered" Hamilton, 60, and Harris II, 31, in the home they shared in Unity Park on May 7, 2020.

Falls Police patrol officers, arriving at Hamilton and Harris' home the day of the slayings said they found Hamilton laying on the sidewalk in front of her house, bleeding heavily from several serious stab wounds. As some officers worked feverishly to try to save her life, other officers entered the home and located Harris' body in a second-floor laundry room.

Assistant District Attorney Maria Stoelting told the jury that heard the case against Benton that Harris had been shot four times and stabbed twice. Police found bloody footprints near Harris' head and the tip of a knife broken off in his skull.

Hamilton, suffering from 11 stab wounds and four gunshots, was able to flee her house, Stoelting said, and make her way to the front of a neighbor's home. There, Hamilton cried out, "He shot me. He shot me."

When the neighbor asked Hamilton who had shot her, Stoelting said the victim replied, "B.J. did it." Prosecutors and police say "B.J." is a nickname associated with Benton.

Police say Benton fled from Unity Park and was then picked up by Clay. Investigators said Clay drove Benton to Cleveland, where he was arrested by a U.S. Marshals Task Force on May 8, 2020.