After the attack, Christopher Ammons Kemp, 31, wrote in a Facebook message to a friend, “I didn’t want to hurt her, just the baby,” prosecutors said at Kemp’s trial last week, according to AL.com.
Kemp did not deny the March 2016 assault that occurred after the couple had been separated for weeks, his defense attorney, John Robbins, said in court, the outlet reported.
Kemp’s attorney said his client mistyped the Facebook message, and that it was sent while intoxicated on pills and scared after learning how significantly girlfriend Jessica Jackson had been injured, according to AL.com.
“I meant to type ‘or the baby,’ not ‘just the baby,’ ” Kemp reportedly said.
Jurors found Kemp guilty of felony murder/domestic violence first-degree and felony murder/burglary first-degree, reports AL.com. They dismissed a stronger charge of capital murder, for which Kemp could have faced the death penalty.
The judge in the case set sentencing for Sept. 27.
“[Kemp] is responsible for his conduct that day” that injured Jackson and the pair’s unborn child, Kemp’s attorney Robbins said during testimony.
However, Robbins had argued that his client did not plan what happened and should be found guilty of a lesser charge rather than the capital murder charge for which he was indicted.
Kemp himself testified that he did not recall his exact actions and claimed he blacked out, though prosecutors argued that he intended to kill the baby.
“I just panicked,” Kemp testified, AL.com reports. “I had a drug-induced psychotic episode.”
He was charged with domestic violence and capital murder stemming from the altercation at Jackson’s residence, according to police who announced his arrest hours after the seven-months-pregnant Jackson, then 28, was found suffering from serious injuries.
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Although Jackson’s unborn baby girl was pronounced dead at a hospital, Jackson survived.
The violent incident was the work of “a jilted ex who felt like he was being pushed out,” Deputy District Attorney Neal Zarzour said in his opening statement on Tuesday, according to AL.com.
Killer Once Became Enraged After Ex Refused Sex
The couple had met in middle school and dated in high school. They broke up but then reconnected in 2014 while Jackson was married, court testimony showed.
After Jackson divorced, Kemp and his daughter from a prior relationship moved into Jackson’s home in 2015. But throughout that year Kemp was kicked out of the house by Jackson repeatedly, culminating in a New Year’s Eve incident when she grew fearful after he fired a gun outside the home, AL.com reports.
After Jackson refused to have sex with him days later, Kemp got mad and cut off her electricity — a breaking point in their relationship. “That was the last straw,” prosecutor Zarzour said.
Tensions continued between the estranged pair until the March 15, 2016 attack, when Kemp, under the influence of unprescribed Xanax that he was “popping … like it was candy,” encountered Jackson in her home’s garage and snapped, Robbins said.
Kemp, who had gone back to Jackson’s residence to retrieve some belongings, did not expect to cross paths with her because he thought she would be taking his daughter to a dance class, Robbins said. That day however, Jackson had arranged for someone else to pick up Kemp’s child.
On the stand, Kemp said he recalled the moments leading to the alleged assault in Jackson’s garage, but then his memory went blank. He next remembered that he was on top of Jackson, using his left hand to strangle her and his right hand to punch her, when he finally realized what was happening.
“You left her in the garage unconscious and bleeding,” said Zarzour.
“Yes,” Kemp answered.
He said he tried to call for help on Jackson’s phone but was frustrated by its locking device and then threw the phone and shattered it — an action that prosecutors argued was an attempt to leave Jackson without a way to summon anyone to help her.
Kemp then left the scene. Hours later, when he was arrested, he told police that he was on his way to turn himself in, according to testimony.
Kemp’s Attorney Says Jury Reached ‘Correct Verdict’
Kemp’s defense attorney John Robbins said his client, who expected to be punished for the attack, was “happy” with the jury’s decision to find him guilty of a lesser crime that removed the possibility of the death penalty.
“Obviously we think it was the correct verdict. I actually told the jury to find him guilty,” he tells PEOPLE.
Robbins had argued against the charge of capital murder, and the jury followed his direction by finding Kemp guilty of a lesser charge.
“In that sense it was a victory and my client is happy,” he says. “He understands he has to be punished, and he understood that from day one.”
Robbins said they would not make a decision on an appeal until after Kemp is sentenced.