Man acquitted in fatal stabbing of caterer at wedding
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.