Serial Biter Charged With Murder in Beating Death of Girlfriend

A Phoenix man -- with a lengthy rap sheet for domestic violence -- was arrested yesterday for the murder of his girlfriend, during which he allegedly bit off her nipple.

Paul Lavon Hamilton's been charged with one count of second-degree murder in the beating death of Stephanie Joyce, his girlfriend of several years.

About 3 a.m. yesterday, police were called to an AM/PM convenience store at 2740 West Northern Avenue, where a passerby was summoned to a gold pickup truck that wouldn't start.

Inside the truck -- driven by a woman named Judy Thomas -- the passerby noticed a woman in the cab who looked dead. Thomas assured the stranger that the person in the truck, later identified by police as Stephanie Joyce, was just passed out drunk. Thomas then left the gas station on foot -- abandoning both the truck and Joyce -- and the passerby had a store employee call police.

Thomas was located by police about a mile away. Joyce, police discovered, wasn't drunk -- she had been beaten to death.

Thomas told police a cockamamie story about how she had gone to the home of a friend, known to her only as "L.B.," and seen Joyce injured. "L.B.," later identified as Hamilton, told her to get into Joyce's truck with him, and the three drove around Phoenix until Hamilton stopped, got out of the car, and told Thomas to go get gas and then pick him up.

That's when, according to Thomas, police found the body.

In reality, however, Thomas had been staying with Hamilton and Joyce in their apartment. After telling the aforementioned story to police, Thomas told detectives she'd heard Hamilton and Joyce arguing. She said Hamilton eventually came to her and said Joyce was dead. He then ordered her into the truck with the body.

Police determined that Joyce was killed by blunt-force injuries and that Hamilton had a criminal history.

Hamilton has several prior convictions for domestic violence, including one in which the victim had bruising all over her face and body, as well as a bite mark on her stomach.

Joyce's body fit a similar description, with one of her nipples bitten off and the other showing obvious bite marks.

The injuries, detectives determined, were consistent with sexual abuse. Hamilton, however, told police the two had engaged in consensual sex that day.

Hamilton, authorities say, maintains that he didn't kill Joyce.

Hamilton's being held on a $1 million bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for June 1.