Mis­trial de­clared in fa­tal stab­bing at re­cep­tion

De­fen­dant claims self-de­fense af­ter fight about chairs es­ca­lated

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - VIR­GINIA BY EL­LIE SIL­VER­MAN el­lie.sil­ver­man@wash­post.com

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.”

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