CLEARWATER — She said as much to investigators and told her mother the same thing during a recorded telephone conversation after being booked into the Pinellas County Jail on a first-degree murder charge.
Jennifer Mee, also known as the “Hiccup Girl,” admitted she had orchestrated a robbery three years ago that resulted in the death of 22-year-old Shannon Griffin, a man she met online, a prosecutor said in court Wednesday.
“She set everything up,” Assistant State Attorney Christopher LaBruzzo told jurors during statements.
Mee, now 22, is accused of setting up Griffin, whom she met on the social networking site MocoSpace, for a robbery on Oct. 23, 2010, that went awry.
Mee and two accomplices, Laron Raiford and Lamont Newton, lured Griffin to a dark alley in St. Petersburg, where Griffin was expecting to buy $60 worth of marijuana, authorities said. But the trio had no marijuana and had intended to rob Griffin all along. He was shot four times in the chest after he resisted, prosecutors say.
Raiford was convicted of first-degree murder in Griffin’s death last month and was sentenced to life in prison. Newton, who was Mee’s boyfriend at the time, has not gone to trial yet.
Three years before the slaying, Mee became known to millions as “Hiccup Girl” for her inability to stop hiccupping for five weeks when she was 15. Her arrest made national news, too.
Mee’s defense attorney, John Trevena, on Wednesday presented a sequence of events markedly different from LaBruzzo’s in his opening statements.
Police decided against pursuing a fourth viable suspect: Jennifer Charron, Raiford’s girlfriend, Trevena said. Charron, Mee and their boyfriends lived together in a St. Petersburg apartment.
It was Charron, who was working as a prostitute, who went to meet Griffin, Trevena said. Raiford followed her, and when he saw Charron and Griffin together, he exploded and pulled a revolver, the attorney said.
That scenario makes more sense than the one presented by LaBrazzo, given the number of times Griffin was shot, Trevena told jurors in his opening statement.
It “takes quite an amount of thought and dexterity to crank off four rounds from a revolver,” Trevena said. “That seems to be indicative of a crime of passion.”
Investigators found an opened condom wrapper and Griffin with his pants pulled down in the alley where he was shot, Trevena said.
Mee was not in the dark alley when Griffin was shot, Trevena said.
“By the time the gun is fired, she is not at that scene, but they want you to convict her now of murder in the first degree based upon their theory that Miss Mee was helping set up a marijuana deal that somehow went bad, and during that marijuana deal that went bad Mr. Griffin was shot,” Trevena told jurors.
“She should be equally guilty as someone who pumps four rounds into the victim’s chest,” Trevena said in mock disbelief.
Charron was never charged. She is expected to testify that the robbery was Mee’s idea.
“Little Jen masterminded the whole thing,” she is quoted saying in court documents.
The physical evidence linking Raiford to Griffin’s death centered around the revolver, which had been left behind accidentally. His DNA was found on the weapon, as well as shell casings in the .38-caliber revolver. Projectiles retrieved from inside Griffin’s body were also matched to the gun.
Before opening statements began Wednesday, a court psychologist conducted an impromptu examination of Mee and determined she was competent to stand trial after Trevena suggested she may suffer from paranoid schizophrenia.
In a private setting, Mee and court psychologist Jill Poorman discussed Mee’s purported illness; Poorman concluded it wouldn’t interfere with Mee’s ability to proceed with her trial.
Trevena said he didn’t learn of Mee’s supposed diagnosis until Tuesday, when the lawyers were busy sorting through prospective jurors. He knew she suffered from Tourette syndrome and learned of the second mental disorder while questioning Mee privately about her Social Security payments, he said.
There was no supporting documentation indicating Mee is a paranoid schizophrenic, and prosecutors hadn’t been told that Mee possibly suffers from the mental affliction until this week.
LaBruzzo asked Pinellas Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley to prohibit Trevena from using the word “schizophrenia” or mentioning her low IQ during his opening statement, and the judge agreed. That means in all likelihood the defense won’t be able to raise those as issues during the trial, at least directly.