Mistrial declared in fatal stabbing at reception
Defendant claims self-defense after fight about chairs escalated
A judge declared a mistrial Friday in the case of a former Fairfax County parks worker charged with second-degree murder for stabbing a woman after a tensionfilled wedding reception that ended in a fight over folding chairs.
The Fairfax County Circuit Court jury deliberated more than six hours before announcing they could not reach a verdict in the case against Kempton A. Bonds, 20.
Bonds was working at the wedding reception at a Chantilly, Va., park in August 2016 when he stabbed 35-year-old Tyonne Johns, who was the caterer at the event and a friend of the bride and groom.
Prosecutors argued Bonds had been rude to wedding guests throughout the evening and ultimately lashed out violently. Bonds said Johns put her hands around his neck during the dispute over the chairs, and he argued he was acting in self-defense when he pulled out his knife.
Johns’s mother left the courtroom crying after Judge Daniel E. Ortiz declared a mistrial.
While conferencing with his attorneys and his mother after hearing the jury was hung, Bonds appeared scared. At one point he put his hand on his head and looked down as defense attorney Peter Greenspun spoke to the group.
“Look at his face . . . . God I just want to hug him,” Karyn Clifton, 45, said to those sitting by her in the courtroom. Clifton had testified about Bonds, who was a regular babysitter for her three children.
During the five-day trial, jurors also heard from the bride, wedding guests and the defendant himself about how the evening of Aug. 6, 2016, unfolded at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park.
Those at the wedding testified that Bonds’s near-constant presence at the wedding reception was excessive and that he was curt when people tried to speak with him. He angered guests and the bride by turning off the music minutes after the 9 p.m. deadline in the contract, even though the bride and groom hadn’t had their first dance.
Greenspun argued that the young man was just doing his job. Those who know Bonds, including his mother, testified that he is polite and trustworthy. Bonds had been working for the Fairfax County Park Authority since July 2015, and Bonds’s boss, Zane Stivers, told the jury that he had considered Bonds one of his best hires.
Both sides agreed that tension between Bonds and the wedding party and guests grew throughout the evening.
The defense’s argument relied on the claim that Johns attacked Bonds, choking him to the point where he couldn’t breathe. The bride and a wedding guest testified that they never saw Johns touch Bonds.
Fairfax County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Brandon Shapiro said that the defense’s version contradicted Bonds’s behavior immediately after the incident. Bonds, who carries an inhaler for asthma, did not sound like someone who could barely breathe during the 911 call he placed after the stabbing, Shapiro told the jurors.
But even if Johns had choked Bonds, Shapiro said in his closing argument, stabbing her twice with a three-inch blade, and twisting that blade upward, showed Bonds meant to kill.
“It was by far not an accident. He did this with malice. He antagonized, he baited . . . he took that knife and he stuck it three inches into her,” Shapiro said. Bonds was, he argued, “going for death.”
Greenspun told jurors that the people at the wedding had become “foul and vile and disrespectful” to Bonds.
When the situation became increasingly strained after Bonds shut off the music, he called his boss and police to explain that he felt “threatened.” Instead of sticking around to monitor the situation like Bonds thought officers would do, the police “abandoned him,” Greenspun said.
Before the stabbing, Greenspun said, Bonds was cornered, outnumbered and verbally assaulted by those at the wedding.
Bonds explained to the jurors why he stabbed Johns during his testimony Thursday: “I was trying to get her off of me so that I could breathe.”
When cross-examined, Bonds didn’t waver: “I was afraid for my life.”