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Trial gets under way for Riverview woman accused of shooting house guest

TAMPA — She waited outside the house, repeating the story. To herself, maybe, or perhaps to a listening ear nearby.

"Bang bang," a sheriff's deputy testified he heard Tamra Leasure say, over and over. "Bang bang" for the two shots she said she fired.

That's one version of Leasure's story that jurors heard Tuesday at the start of her second-degree murder trial.

Leasure, 45, is accused of killing Arthur Tilley, 57, of Maine, shooting him three times — not just twice — while he was staying at her Riverview house in 2009.

Leasure is expected to take the stand today to say she was standing her ground. But the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office argues lawful self-defense is another untruthful layer in her changing story.

Since Leasure has admitted to shooting Tilley, the trial outcome depends on whether the jury decides she was within her rights to protect herself under "stand your ground," a controversial state law allowing forceful self-defense if threatened.

Leasure's story wavered through recorded interviews with detectives that night in 2009, played to jurors Tuesday.

"I'm in shock," she often said throughout the interviews.

Within hours of the shooting, Leasure took back the following claims she had made: that Tilley brandished the gun; that he shot himself in the head with the first bullet; and that she took the gun from his hands.

Her statements of "I have no idea where he got this gun from," and "I don't own that weapon," turned into, "I keep it under my mattress, and, yes, that was my gun."

By the end of the two recorded interviews, here's Leasure's final version: Tilley verbally threatened her. She got her gun and shot him, three times, as he approached her saying he would kill her and then himself.

When detectives wondered how an unarmed, 5-foot-6 man who had been drinking heavily was going to kill her, Leasure said she didn't know.

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

Trial gets under way for Riverview woman accused of shooting house guest 02/08/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 11:11pm]
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