I remember seeing, three years ago, the young girl from south Florida, dressed in a pink sweater with white hearts,
hiccup her way through several interviews on the Today show. She became an overnight interest for the media because she’d had the hiccups for almost two months; 47 days to be exact. The girl, Jennifer Mee, was 15 at the time. It was clear she was uncomfortable, both with the sometimes painful hiccups as well as all of the media attention she was receiving. The nation was fascinated. Her last interview with Ann Curry after she’d finally rid herself of the painful contractions ended with her in tears because despite the unpleasantness of a 47 day hiccup bout, she was able to reconnect with her birth father and for that, she was really excited. She was both soft spoken and humble as she told Curry of the only thing keeping them apart was the distance between Florida and Vermont. She said they spoke daily over the phone.
Fast forward three years. The same sweet Jennifer Mee we remember from those interviews is anything but these days. Now 19, she has been charged with first degree felony murder. It’s difficult to even recognize her in the mug shots. She’s traded her long blonde hair for a too-dark brown short style. On Saturday, she and several of her friends invited a neighbor over. When he arrived, they robbed him at gunpoint and then fatally shot him. The victim, Shannon Griffin, 22, had struggled, according to St. Petersburg Police. All of the suspects have admitted to the murder.
What happened in those few short years? How did she go from “the girl next door” to a self-proclaimed “female version of a hustla”, her description of herself on her MySpace page? Also on her page, she says her heart is “in Vermont”, meaning what many assume is the reference to her father she only recently located. No word from her father, but her mother released a statement that read, in part, “Jennifer is a lovable, sweet little girl who wouldn’t hurt a fly…she’s not out to hurt anyone”. Clearly, her mother is unaware of her “hustla” status.
Two other names have been released and they too have been arrested. Lamont Newton and LaRon Raiford are also in jail today, charged with the same murder Mee has been accused of. For now, all three are being held at the St. Petersburg jail.
Where does one go from here? Seriously, her life is over – she has little to look forward to and from the looks of her mugshot, she was in trouble long before they pulled the gun and killed the neighbor. This is yet another tragic story of life taking unbelievable turns that offer no hope and no out.