Crime

Jury didn’t think he was guilty of murder, but Bradenton man found guilty of killing homeless man

Medical Examiner testifies there was no way Donald Hammond shot himself

The chief medical examiner testified Tuesday that there was no way Donald Hammond could have shot himself, contradicting one of the explanations that Bradenton man charged with killing him gave a deputy.
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The chief medical examiner testified Tuesday that there was no way Donald Hammond could have shot himself, contradicting one of the explanations that Bradenton man charged with killing him gave a deputy.

While a jury didn’t believe that Albert Knowles intended to or maliciously killed Donald Hammond, he was found guilty of killing him.

Albert Knowles, 32, was charged with second-degree murder but after several hours of deliberating Thursday, a jury found him guilty of manslaughter.

The victim had been at Knowles’ Bradenton home in the early morning hours of Oct. 15, 2017, when Knowles shot him. Knowles ran to get his next-door neighbor, an off-duty deputy with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, telling him there was an emergency. The deputy went to investigate, finding Hammond dead on the couch.

Knowles first said that Hammond had shot himself, but later said that the victim had shot at him.

But Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Russell Vega testified Tuesday that it was not possible that the victim’s wounds were self-inflicted. Vega also didn’t think the victim could have been holding a knife when he was shot, but that the knife found in his hand when police arrived had been placed there.

Assistant Public Defender Anne Hunter questioned Vega, however, about how he did not know the victim’s flexibility or grip capability before being shot.

Knowles, who is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and has struggled with drug abuse, did not take the stand on Wednesday as had previously been indicated. Without calling any witnesses, his defense rested on Wednesday morning.

Knowles is still facing a charge of traveling to meet a minor for sex in an unrelated case. He was arrested in that case about four months before Hammond was killed.

According to charges filed by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Knowles had contacted an undercover detective on the dating site or application MeetMe, thinking the detective was a 14-year-old girl. Knowles messaged with the undercover detective through MeetMe and through text messages about having sex and then made arrangements to meet.

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