Death sentence upheld for man who forced daughter to help dismember her mother

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the premeditated murder conviction and death sentence of a Memphis man convicted of killing his long-term girlfriend and making their daughter help dispose of the body.

In February 2008, James Hawkins stabbed Charlene Gaither in the presence of their 12-year-old daughter in the Memphis apartment they shared.

Hawkins made his daughter help hide her mother's body in the freezer and clean the murder scene. He then went out to buy a power saw and forced their daughter to help move her mother's body from the freezer to the bathtub. He used the saw to remove Gaither's head, hands, and feet, then made his daughter help him return the body to the freezer.

Later that night, Hawkins and his daughter put Gaither's body in her vehicle, drove to Mississippi, threw her body off a bridge, and disposed of her head, hands, and feet along the route as they drove.

Three days after the murder, Gaither reported the woman missing to police. The day after she was reported missing, highway workers in Mississippi discovered her dismembered body.

Hawkins murdered Gaither, according to prosecutors, because she was threatening to report him to the police for sexually abusing their daughter. Their daughter testified at the trial about the murder, the events leading up to it, and that Hawkins had been sexually abusing her for many years.

The jury imposed the death sentence on Hawkins. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence. The Tennessee Supreme Court also affirmed the conviction and death sentence.

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