BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – When Victoria Hampton died on April 1, 13 days after she was shot from behind, point-blank, by an alleged car thief, the 61-year-old Bakersfield native left behind what might be regarded as a typical middle-class estate.
She left, in various stages of repayment, a southwest Bakersfield home, at least two cars, monetary assets and business-related property.
She also left an unknown but purportedly extensive collection of firearms — perhaps hundreds, but almost certainly dozens. She had one of those weapons — a 9 millimeter Sig Sauer handgun — in her hand at the moment she was mortally wounded.
The state Department of Justice has yet to respond to KGET’s California Public Records Act request listing the number and type of firearms Hampton possessed at the time of her death and the current physical location of those firearms.
But by law, Hampton’s guns cannot simply be dispersed like silverware at an estate sale; they must be administratively accounted for in some way.
California law says anyone inheriting a firearm in this state is required by law to register the transfer of ownership or in some cases, dispose of the firearm. However, the rules regarding that transfer depend on one’s relationship to the testator — the maker of the document bequeathing the firearm — as well as the type of firearm bequeathed.
For example, normally a transfer of gun ownership is handled by a Federal Firearm Licensed dealer. The gun is held by the dealer during the mandatory 10-day waiting period and the parties are required to complete a Dealer’s Record of Sale. That initiates a background check with the state Department of Justice.
In addition, gun purchasers are required to secure a Firearm Safety Certificate before taking possession of the gun.
Did any of that happen with the inheritors of Hampton’s cache of weapons? That’s not clear. Hampton lived alone, having lost her husband Chuck Mathis to renal failure and other health problems two years ago, and the couple had no children. In fact, Hampton’s only living close relatives were her father, mother and sister, all from whom she had long been estranged.
A close friend, Teresa Cline, has claimed to be in possession of Hampton’s will, and Cline has physical custody of Hampton’s black 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT, but the whereabouts of Hampton’s weapons are not known.
Hampton’s father, Richard Escudero, says he doesn’t know where any of his daughter’s possessions are now, and Cline had not responded to requests for comment.
Escudero, however, is certain of the location of one thing relative to his daughter: He has possession of her ashes.