ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The lawyer for a young Florida woman who was known for unstoppable hiccups and is now accused of murder said Tuesday he may present an unusual defense in her case: His client has Tourette’s Syndrome.
Jennifer Mee, 19, was charged Sunday with first-degree murder after police said she lured a 22-year-old man to a meeting where he was robbed and shot a day earlier. St. Peterburg Maj. Mike Kovacsev said police do not believe she fired the gun.
Mee was briefly famous in 2007 because she couldn’t stop hiccuping. Her attorney, John Trevena, said she was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder that can cause involuntary movements and speech problems.
“Hiccups are a symptom of Tourette’s,” Trevena said, declining to be more specific about how the condition might have affected his client’s behavior.
Trevena said Mee, who has never been arrested before, is distraught and is being held without bond in a protective confinement wing at the Pinellas County Jail because she is a high-profile inmate.
Her attorney is used to cases with a bright media spotlight; he represents John Graziano, the Iraq War veteran who suffered severe brain damage while riding in a car with wrestling star Hulk Hogan’s son, Nick Bollea.
Kovacsev told NBC’s “Today” show that police had records of about a dozen contacts with Mee over the past year at a series of different addresses, many where her boyfriend roughed her up.
“She didn’t actually live on the street, but was transient in nature because she tended to live in different motels or apartments and moved from one location to another,” he said. “Sometimes when you live a little bit of a transient lifestyle you tend to hang around some unsavory individuals.”
He added that the two men charged with Mee had “minimal criminal records” but that her ex-boyfriend was in jail for robbery.
The victim in the case was 22-year-old Shannon Griffin. Police said he worked at Walmart and had lived in Florida for about a year – before that, he lived in Petal, Miss.
Police said Mee accepted a friend request from Griffin on a social networking website five or six days before the robbery, but it was unclear if he had recognized her as the “hiccup girl.”
Her mystery plight put her on the “Today” show as a teenager in 2007, where she was hugged by fellow guest and country music star Keith Urban.
Mee’s constant hiccups stopped on their own after five weeks, but Trevena said that Mee still suffers from periodic bouts.
“They’ll always continue,” he said.