Man ac­quit­ted in fa­tal stab­bing of caterer at wed­ding

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - SUNDAY IN VIRGINIA - BY JUSTIN JOUVENAL TheWash­ing­ton Post

FAIR­FAX— A for­mer Fair­fax County parks em­ployee was found not guilty of mur­der Wed­nes­day in the stab­bing death of a caterer af­ter a dis­pute that spi­raled out of con­trol at a wed­ding last year.

A Fair­fax jury re­turned the ver­dict for Kemp­ton Bonds, 20, of Clifton, af­ter de­lib­er­at­ing for a lit­tle more than three hours. The trial fol­lowed an­other that ended in a mis­trial this sum­mer, af­ter that jury failed to reach a ver­dict.

Bonds was over­see­ing the Au­gust 2016 wed­ding at a Chan­tilly while the 35- year- old vic­tim, Ty­onne Johns of Wash­ing­ton, was ca­ter­ing it. Bonds was on his last day on the job be­fore he would head to Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Univer­sity, prose­cu­tors have said.

Bonds, Johns and mem­bers of the wed­ding party got into a ver­bal ar­gu­ment over chairs while clean­ing up. The fight ended with Bonds stab­bing Johns with a 3- inch pock­etknife. The blade pierced her heart.

A pros­e­cu­tor and de­fense at­tor­ney spent seven days spar­ring over whether Bonds was the ag­gres­sor or de­fend­ing him­self against an at­tack by Johns, which had been pre­ceded by a ten­sion- filled wed­ding.

The cen­tral piece of ev­i­dence in the case was dra­matic au­dio of the en­counter, which Bonds cap­tured in a cell­phone video and was played re­peat­edly in court. Wed­ding guests are heard an­grily hurl­ing in­sults at Bonds for min­utes, be­fore Johns ap­proaches him and says: “I’m gonna knock you out.”

The ac­tion hap­pens off- cam­era, but scuf­fling sounds are heard, and the cam­era shakes.

After­ward, a man can be heard say­ing, “You hit a girl.” Johns is heard say­ing, “Oh, you stabbed me,” be­fore Bonds screams for po­lice.

Bonds tes­ti­fied at trial that Johns was at­tack­ing him and he feared for his life, so he pulled out the knife he reg­u­larly used on the job and stabbed Johns twice.

“I couldn’t breathe, and she was stran­gling me,” Bonds told the jury. “I tried to push her off me, but she wouldn’t let go.”

As­sis­tant Com­mon­wealth’s At­tor­ney Bran­don Shapiro coun­tered in his clos­ing ar­gu­ment that Bonds’ use of force was out of pro­por­tion with the threat he faced.

Ear­lier in the trial, the pros­e­cu­tor said Bonds had been on a “power trip” at the wed­ding, un­nec­es­sar­ily insert­ing him­self into the pro­ceed­ings and rankling the wed­ding party.

Po­lice were called to the scene five times be­fore the stab­bing oc­curred.

The court­room was tense as the ver­dict was read. Johns’ family and friends burst into tears, and one yelled out that Bonds was a “mur­derer.” Bonds and his at­tor­ney em­braced in a bear hug.

Shapiro and de­fense at­tor­ney Peter Green­spun both called the case a tragedy.

Johns, for­merly of Hopewell, was run­ning an up- and- com­ing ca­ter­ing com­pany.

Bonds

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