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Hillsborough woman who killed houseguest gets 30 years in prison

TAMPA — Tamra Leasure may have feared for her life in 2009 when she shot a man dead in her kitchen.

She's the only one who knows the truth.

But Leasure, 45, had admitted in trial that she told lies to investigators about how Arthur Tilley died.

Those lies clouded her case of self-defense, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Manuel A. Lopez told Leasure on Monday, sentencing the Riverview woman to 30 years in prison for second-degree murder.

"You consistently and persistently lied to everyone," Lopez told her.

Both a jury last month and Lopez on Monday refused to grant her immunity under Florida's "stand your ground" law, which allows self-defense with deadly force when faced with serious threat.

Still, Lopez encouraged her to appeal, calling her self-defense claim "an interesting issue."

Minutes after her sentencing, Leasure signed a notice of appeal to the state's 2nd District Court of Appeal.

"I love you," she told her friends and family, over and over, mouthing the words before her sentencing and saying them aloud afterward. Her hands were cuffed in front, so she could not return the hugs of her two teenage children.

As bailiffs ushered her out, Leasure lingered at the door, eyes on her family.

On March 5, 2009, Leasure argued with her houseguest, 57-year-old Arthur Tilley of Maine. She said he came at her in the kitchen, drunk and yelling, angry because she wouldn't marry him.

According to Leasure's testimony, Tilley threatened to kill her and himself so they could be together in heaven.

Leasure ran to her bedroom for her gun and shot him three times.

She placed the gun in his hand and told investigators a series of lies: It wasn't her gun. He fired the first bullet at his own head. She wrestled the gun from him.

None of that was true, Leasure later admitted, attributing the lies to shock.

Throughout, she maintained that she acted in self-defense.

"I had no escape," she said Monday, "and I knew my death was imminent."

Leasure's family and friends pleaded with the judge for leniency, describing a mother who raised her kids to go to church and earn good grades, a "best friend" to her 16-year-old daughter.

Tilley's siblings, nieces and ex-wife came to court, too.

"I'm very sorry for your loss," Leasure told them. "I wish to God I could have avoided what happened that night."

Tilley was an alcoholic, his family said, though in 19 years of a previous marriage, he was never violent. He was devoted to the Kiwanis Club and a camp for disabled children in Maine.

His 24-year-old niece, Victoria Lambergs, hoped the end of the trial would let her "focus on remembering him," she said, "instead of what happened to him."

Not knowing exactly what transpired that night bothers the family.

"Maybe she doesn't know," Tilley's brother Matthew, 52, said to the judge. "But she could at least tell us the honest truth."

Stephanie Wang can be reached at swang@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

Hillsborough woman who killed houseguest gets 30 years in prison 03/14/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 1:00am]
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