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Riverview defendant describes fatal shooting in her home

At a hearing Thursday, Tamra Leasure, 45, describes the moments just before she shot and killed Arthur R. Tilley Jr., 57, in her Riverview home in March 2009. At the time of the shooting, Leasure told authorities Tilley had committed suicide.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

At a hearing Thursday, Tamra Leasure, 45, describes the moments just before she shot and killed Arthur R. Tilley Jr., 57, in her Riverview home in March 2009. At the time of the shooting, Leasure told authorities Tilley had committed suicide.

TAMPA— Tamra Leasure did fire the three shots that killed a man in her Riverview home.

But her attorney says she had a valid reason: self-defense in the face of death.

Leasure, 45, faces a charge of second-degree murder in the March 5, 2009, death of Arthur Tilley, a man she had met two months earlier in Orlando.

In a motion drawing on a controversial state law known as "stand your ground," the defense argued Thursday that Leasure was in her own home at the time, not involved in unlawful activity and should not now face charges.

The law holds that if a person is attacked, he or she can "meet force with force, including deadly force."

On Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Manuel A. Lopez heard testimony from Leasure, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office detective and a medical examiner about the events on and following that March day.

Investigators said Leasure had an argument with Tilley, 57, who lived in Dedham, Maine, and had been staying at her house for several days.

She shot him with her .38-caliber pistol and then placed the gun in his hand to stage a suicide, they said.

In court, Leasure said she initially lied to detectives in saying Tilley fired the first shot and that the gun was not hers.

"I was in shock," she said, tearing up when she described how she shot the man who had insisted on marrying her.

"And after I said suicide, it just snowballed. It just snowballed into not making any sense. ... I lied about him shooting himself."

Leasure said Tilley proposed to her several times, but she turned him down because he was an alcoholic.

She said she told him she wanted to break their ties.

But that day, she said, he got angry.

"He said, 'I'm going to kill you if you don't marry me now,' " Leasure testified. "He came at me. I was scared to death. He was going to kill me and I knew it."

That's when Leasure said she got her gun from under her mattress and shot him three times.

Geoffrey Harris, a detective who interviewed her after the incident, testified that it seemed unlikely that Leasure acted in self-defense because she did not have any injuries and her statements were inconsistent.

"There are four to five completely different stories within those interviews," he said.

Lopez said he will make a written ruling on the motion later.

Nandini Jayakrishna can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or njayakrishna@sptimes.com.

Riverview defendant describes fatal shooting in her home 07/29/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 29, 2010 11:36pm]
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