In the days when her 9-month-old daughter was first missing in 2010, Shakara Dickens added to an existing tattoo, bought new party clothes and went clubbing with friends, prosecutors told a jury in her murder trial Tuesday.
Shakara Dickens, 21, listens to opening arguments Tuesday morning in criminal court. Dickens is charged with first-degree murder in the presumed death of her missing baby girl, Lauryn.
Jurors were shown a photo of a smiling and stylishly dressed Dickens at a nightclub event called "Swagged Out Sunday" and a witness later testified that Dickens had a tattoo on her back that said "Benjamin" -- the baby's father -- altered to say "All About Benjamins," a reference to money.
Dickens, 21, is charged with first-degree murder in the presumed death of her baby Lauryn, whose body has never been found.
"You're going to have to use your common sense," state prosecutor Jennifer Nichols told Criminal Court jurors of the circumstantial case. "At the end of this trial, we're going to ask you to find Shakara Dickens guilty of killing her daughter."
Defense attorney Murray Wells countered that Dickens' behavior was not admirable during the weeks of September 2010 when she reported her baby missing, but that there is no evidence that the mother harmed her child or that the little girl is dead.
"At the end of this trial, there's a pretty good chance you're not going to like my client," Wells told the seven men and seven women of the jury.
"We're not asking you to like Shakara Dickens ... but this case is not about being a bad mother. ... They have to prove that Lauryn Dickens is dead and they can't prove that. Lauryn Dickens is a missing child at this point."
Dickens reported her daughter missing on Sept. 15, 2010, telling police she gave the child to an unknown woman allegedly sent by the baby's father, Benjamin Norfleet, who was in jail at the time for burglary of a vehicle and other charges.
But police said jail records showed Dickens had blocked his calls and that she could not have made such an arrangement with Norfleet.
Prosecutors said Dickens also falsely told police that she had given the baby to an adoption agency and that she had given the baby to Norfleet's parents.
Nichols said a cadaver dog indicated a corpse had been at Dickens' Raleigh apartment and around a car the defendant had been driving. The defense called the evidence "just a barking dog" and not proof of murder.
The baby's pediatrician, Dr. Jeffrey Thompson, said Lauryn was a healthy baby when he saw her for her nine-month checkup on Aug. 20, 2010. She weighed 16 pounds and 15 ounces and was 271/2 inches tall.
"She was a normal baby," Thompson said, adding that he treated her for a dry-skin condition.
On cross examination, the doctor also said there was no sign the small girl had ever been abused.
Later, police officer Donna Boykin testified that Dickens reported her daughter missing on Sept. 15, 2010, but gave only vague information and did not appear to be upset.
Boykin said Dickens said she gave her baby to a white woman sent by the child's father, but that she did not know the woman's name, address, phone number or any other way to contact her. The officer indicated that Norfleet, the child's father, did not support Dickens' account.
A friend of the defendant, Toya Rockamore, said she traded text messages with Dickens the next day.
Rockamore texted: "Where's Lauryn?"
Dickens replied: "Don't really want to talk about it... its nerve wrecking depressing and scary... I'm tired of ppl asking me questions that are not the police."
Dickens, who has been held on $2 million bond since her arrest, faces life in prison if convicted as charged.
The trial before Judge J. Robert Carter Jr. resumes this morning.