Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tamra Leasure testifies in Tampa murder trial that she was fighting for her life

Tamra Leasure describes the second of third shots she fired in quick succession, killing Arthur Tilley in 2009 in her home. Leasure is on trial for second-degree murder.


Tamra Leasure describes the second of third shots she fired in quick succession, killing Arthur Tilley in 2009 in her home. Leasure is on trial for second-degree murder.

TAMPA — The way Tamra Leasure sees it, her house guest got too cozy when he started calling her Riverview home "our house."

They had known each other just two months, Leasure and her friend Arthur Tilley, but the argument the night of March 5, 2009, quickly escalated from "this isn't 'our' house" to a fight about jealousy, control and marriage.

It ended with Leasure killing Tilley with three gunshots.

"All I know is he had those crazy eyes," Leasure, 45, testified Wednesday in her trial on a second-degree murder charge.

Prosecutors say stripping away the lies from her changing story will show she wasn't acting in self-defense. Among them: Leasure initially told investigators it was Tilley's gun and that he shot himself in the head before she took the gun from him.

Leasure testified Wednesday in Hillsborough County court that she was standing her ground.

"Why, why would I do that," Leasure asked jurors, "unless he was going to kill me?"

On the second day of testimonies, jurors learned more about the complicated relationship Leasure said never went beyond a peck-on-the-cheek friendship.

Leasure met Tilley in Orlando two months before the shooting. On the first day they knew each other, Tilley gave her a ring to wear on her thumb.

They stayed in the same hotel suite, talking all night.

But they parted ways the next morning when Tilley, 57, of Maine bit a waitress on the shoulder at the hotel restaurant.

He was drunk and was arrested, subsequently charged with battery of a law enforcement officer.

From there, Tilley and Leasure spoke on the phone four or five times a week. He sent her a Valentine's Day gift: pink shoes with flowers in them.

Tilley, who was an alcoholic, visited Tampa a month later, alternating staying at Leasure's house and an airport hotel.

"He wanted to marry her," Leasure's daughter, Raquel Pauley, 16, testified Wednesday. "He was getting really possessive and trying to control our family."

He woke up Raquel the night before the shooting, she said, demanding names of nearby hospitals and jails when Leasure didn't come home.

Leasure had spent the night with a boyfriend, but told Tilley her car broke down.

The next morning, Leasure said, Tilley held a plastic bag over his head, saying he would end his misery over her.

Later that evening, Leasure woke up from a nap to a phone call from one of the hospitals Tilley had checked.

She went to ask Tilley about it, who said he was cleaning "their" house. They were wearing matching blue manatee pajama pants — by coincidence, Leasure said.

He was drunk again. He wanted to know where she had been and started yelling about marrying her, she said.

"Stay away from me," Leasure said. And later, "Get out!"

He shoved her. Pointed at her bed and said it would be their bed. Told her when her daughter came home, she'd find them in body bags, she said.

"He had nothing to live for," Leasure testified.

She ran for her gun: a .38-caliber revolver tucked under her mattress. When he wrestled with her for the gun, Leasure fired a grazing shot to his head, she said.

"I knew if he got that gun, he'd kill me," she said. He came at her, which she later described as flailing his arms.

"I backed up some and just went, bam bam!" she said.

Leasure tearfully recounted this for the jurors, words pouring wildly out of her mouth between tears and gasps.

But then the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office began its cross-examination:

Tilley scared Leasure, but she left her then-14-year-old daughter alone with him overnight.

He scared her, but she could escape to get her gun.

He scared her, but he didn't pick up a knife on the kitchen counter during the fight.

Closing arguments begin this morning.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at or (813) 661-2443.

Tamra Leasure testifies in Tampa murder trial that she was fighting for her life 02/09/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 10, 2011 7:11am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. What you need to know for Monday, July 24


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    At 1.2 million gallons, the house of Harry Barkett in South Tampa used more water than anyone else in the Tampa Bay region between Jan. 1 and May 31 of this year, when Tampa was in a severe drought. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  2. Discovering the true meaning of Black Forest cake in the German region itself


    The first time I had a taste of the Black Forest, it wasn't by way of cake.

    Black Forest Cake in Germany was granted legally protected status in 2013. It must use the gateau’s original ingredients, including kirsch, a brandy made from fermented sour cherries from the region.
  3. Gov. Scott's tough talk on Venezuela may not turn into economic action

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — To show his solidarity with Venezuelans, Gov. Rick Scott held a rally in South Florida and repeatedly promised to punish companies that do business with the Nicolás Maduro regime.

    Gov. Rick Scott held a rally July 10 at El Arepazo restaurant to show solidarity with Venezuelans. Scott has said he wants to punish companies that work with the Nicol?s Maduro regime.
  4. Paralyzed patients in Florida fear losing health care at home


    TAMPA — After a 1999 car crash left Albert Hort paralyzed, he lived for a while in a nursing home.

    Albert Hort, 54, is a quadriplegic and receives care at his Tarpon Springs apartment, thanks to a special state program.
  5. Jordan Spieth wins British Open (w/ video)


    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to win the British Open and usher in a new era of golf.

    Matt Kuchar plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole and finishes with bogey for 1-under 69. He had a one-shot lead after 13 holes.