High-profile cases on docket

Published 5:58 pm Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Several high-profile court cases are on the Twenty-First Judicial Circuit Criminal Court docket for December.

Among the cases include two murder suspects, a former county school board member accused of sexual misconduct, ethics violations, prostitution and promoting prison contraband and a former Escambia County Middle School teacher accused of sex abuse.

The murder case against Clarence Luker is set for trial following the selection of a jury on Dec. 13 in courtroom one of the Escambia County Courthouse. Luker, along with his girlfriend, Lorraine Gray, who also faces murder charges and is scheduled for trial that day in courtroom two, was arrested in September 2009 a few hours after the shooting death of Kenneth Porter off Nathan Road in Nokomis.

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Porter was shot during an alleged argument between Luker and Gray over a ladder leaning against the suspect’s travel trailer, according to witnesses and deputies at the scene.

Following the shooting, the suspects fled the scene in a blue and silver late 1980s model van. A few hours later, the couple returned to the trailer where Gray was quickly detained.

The .22-caliber revolver officials believed was used in the shooting was later located near where Luker was apprehended hiding in the bushes near the scene of the crime.

Both Luker and Gray confessed to being the person that pulled the trigger, Sheriff Grover Smith said in an interview.

The custodial sexual misconduct case against Richard Hawthorne, who chose not to run for re-election on the school board this year, is also on the docket for Dec. 13 in courtroom one. The Flomaton resident was arrested in October 2009 a variety of charges and later released on a $100,000 bond.

Smith said that a complaint on Hawthorne from an inmate had been received and following an ABI investigation, the bureau presented evidence to a grand jury resulting in writs for his arrest being issued.

Hawthorne faces charges on two counts of custodial sexual misconduct; two counts of ethics violation, two counts of prostitution and one count of promoting prison contraband, second degree. A court official said the prison contraband was cigarettes.

A first-degree rape case and two second-degree rape cases against former ECMS teacher Victor LaBaron Payne is also set for Dec. 13 in courtroom one. Payne was arrested in March 2007 on additional sex abuse-related charges following a previous conviction. The new charges filed by a second victim include rape, first degree; rape, second degree; sexual abuse, first degree; sexual abuse, second degree; and enticement of a child for immoral purposes.

The victim in the new case was a student at Escambia County Middle School in Atmore where Payne was a teacher when the alleged crimes occurred. In a previous trial against Payne, the victim in the new case served as a witness in the first case against him.

According to the indictment documents, the victim was younger than 12 years old when the violations against her first began. The age of the victim at the time of the initial contact with Payne resulted in the rape, first degree and sexual abuse, first-degree charges. Rape, second degree and sexual abuse, second-degree charges were levied against Payne because the alleged sexual contact with the victim continued after her 12th birthday.

Those charges are that the crime was committed against a minor under the age of 16, but older than 12. The charge that Payne allegedly enticed the victim into the concession stand area of the school’s gymnasium for the purpose of making sexual contact, brought the final charge against him. A third case against Payne on similar charges is pending.

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