The 22-year-old man killed after allegedly being lured to a robbery by a Florida teen dubbed “Hiccup Girl” was happy when he met Jennifer Mee and looked forward to what he thought was a date with her, according to a cousin he lived with.
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In a report that aired on TODAY Wednesday, Douglas Bolden told NBC’s Mark Potter that he was asleep when police came to his door at 4 a.m. Saturday to tell him that Shannon Griffin had been shot and killed.
“It’s the call nobody should ever have to receive,” said Bolden, who described Griffin as a bit of loner who enjoyed spending time on the Internet when he wasn’t at his job at a St. Petersburg-area Walmart.
On Friday, a grand jury is scheduled to begin hearing evidence that Mee, 19, met Griffin on a still-unidentified social networking website and began exchanging e-mails with him. Police say Griffin thought he was meeting Mee for a date on Friday night, but instead met his death.
Police believe Griffin was shot by one of two men in the rear of an apartment. Police do not believe that Mee — who made national headlines in 2007 during a five-week period when she could not control her hiccuping — was part of the robbery plot.
John Trevena, who is defending Mee on a charge of first-degree murder, said Tuesday he may present an unusual defense in her case: His client has Tourette’s syndrome.
“Hiccups are a symptom of Tourette’s,” Trevena said, declining to be more specific about how the condition might have affected the behavior of his client.
The lead investigator in the first-degree homicide case against Mee, meanwhile, said Tuesday that it’s “possible” that the attention she got for her uncontrollable hiccups several years ago could have contributed to her situation today, and that it could come up in her prosecution.
Mee, dubbed “Hiccup Girl” by the media in 2007, is today charged with first-degree murder. According to Maj. Mike Kovacsev, Griffin was shot by one of Mee’s alleged accomplices — Laron Raiford, 20, and Lamont Newton, 22 — for just $50 or $60 and other undisclosed items.
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Mee appeared on TODAY several times in 2007, when she was just 16 and suffering from a five-week attack of chronic hiccups, an involuntary contraction of her diaphragm that eventually stopped on its own. Her mother, Rachel Robidoux, told a local radio talk-show host that her daughter’s brief time in the media spotlight proved to be a “curse.”Video: ‘Hiccup Girl’ lured victim online, cop says (on this page)
“All of a sudden, people knew her name and she would talk to them on different chat sites,” Robidoux said Monday. “She’s very naive, and I was afraid she was getting herself into something that she didn’t really know what she was doing.”
Asked on TODAY Tuesday by Ann Curry if Mee’s hiccuping and the attention on her could have led to some of her trouble, Kovacsev said that “is possible” and he thought Mee’s attorney would raise that possibility during the prosecution of charges that could, if proven, send Mee to prison for the rest of her life.Video: ‘Hiccup Girl’ charged with murder (on this page)
During the year leading up to her arrest, Mee had been living a “transient” lifestyle, Kovacsev said. He told Curry that police had about a dozen encounters with Mee in the last year. Each time, she was staying at a different motel or apartment, and he said that lifestyle often can lead someone to fall in with “unsavory” characters.
“She didn’t actually live on the streets,” said Kovacsev, who heads the homicide unit in St. Petersburg. “She tended to live in motels and apartments, and move from one location to another.”
Under Florida law, a person acting in concert with one or more other persons can be held responsible for the death of a victim during the commission of a felony.Video: ‘Hiccup Girl’ finally gets rid of hiccups (on this page)
In other words, as a matter of law, Mee could be found just as liable for the killing as whomever actually shot Griffin. Kovacsev said police believe she was “walking away” when gunshots rang out.
“She ultimately admitted that she met the victim at a social networking site … and had [Griffin] come down and meet her,” Kovacsev said, adding that the site was not Facebook or MySpace. “It was supposed to be a robbery. Obviously, it went awry, and our victim in this case was shot.”Video: Girl loses hiccups after 37 days (on this page)
Mee, Newton and Raiford are all being held without bail at the Pinellas County Jail. A local newspaper quoted Mee’s father, Chris Robidoux, as saying that Newton is Mee’s current boyfriend. Her last boyfriend is serving time for an unrelated robbery, according to Kovacsev.
‘Would not hurt a fly’
Along with her arrest report, St. Petersburg police included a rundown of all the times they’ve had contact with Mee. In 2009, officers were called three times because she and her boyfriend were fighting. This year she ran away again, and police were called for several more fights.
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In her Monday radio interview, Rachel Robidoux said, “She’s a lovable, sweet little girl who would not hurt a fly. Where things went wrong I don’t know.”
On her MySpace page, Mee describes herself as a “female version of a hustla” and adds that “her heart is still in Vermont,” where her father lives. She last logged into her page Sunday.
“My name is jennifer, im almost 19 but dont let the age fool you, the struggles ive been through has made me grown up so much. Im always havin fun chillin,” she wrote.
On her Facebook page, she alluded to drinking and drugs — and visiting a strip club. On her MySpace page, she posted photos of her tongue piercing, of her giving the camera the finger, and her boyfriend’s jail booking photo.
The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.