LANCASTER – After two days of testimony, a judge ruled Wednesday there is enough evidence for Neffertashia Ann Burroughs to stand trial for the murder of 25-year-old Mantwell James.
“Both the sheriff’s department and the DA’s office worked really hard, and I’m pleased that justice has been done,” said Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami.
“I feel like Tasha (Neffertashia) got just what she deserved, she needs to be in jail,” said James’ mother Yvonne Evans.
Burroughs, 21, is accused of stabbing James to death on Feb. 28 during a party at her home in the 44200 block of Cedar Avenue in Lancaster. James died at the hospital.
Burroughs has maintained that the stabbing was an accident, which happened after James attacked her in front of several witnesses. Two eyewitnesses testifying Tuesday said James and Burroughs had an argument that escalated into a fist fight, with James throwing the first punch. (Read more here).
Wednesday, prosecutors questioned a sheriff’s homicide detective and a county medical examiner.
Deputy medical examiner, Paul Giniecki, said he performed the autopsy and concluded that James died from a stab wound to the upper chest. The wound was seven to eight inches long and five and a half inches deep, Giniecki testified. James had a blood alcohol content of .03%, which is consistent with having one cup of alcohol, and no other drugs were found in his system, Giniecki testified.
Homicide detective, Brandt House, said detectives interviewed a third eyewitness in the case who saw Burroughs stab James once in the chest with a kitchen knife.
House said Eboni Taylor circled Burroughs’ image from a photo lineup and wrote the following message underneath the photo: “I saw Tasha (Neffertashia) stick Tweezy (Mantwell) one time after they were having an argument.”
Detectives were not able to recover the knife used in the stabbing, even after an exhaustive search of the residence, the front yard, the surrounding yards, and a nearby dumpster, House testified.
Burroughs went into hiding after the stabbing, prosecutors said. A sheriff’s department’s surveillance team checked several locations and were unable to locate Burroughs, House testified.
Defense attorney, Hung Du, said James and one of the eyewitnesses (Brian Outlaw) were members of the Bounty Hunters Bloods Gang. Du said Burroughs went into hiding because she was worried about gang retaliation.
“She reasonably believed she was in danger from a gang member,” Du said.
In arguing for a dismissal, Du said the stabbing was clearly an act of self-defense because Burroughs had asked James to leave her home, but instead he choked her, knocked her down, busted her lip and continued to pursue her even after he was stabbed.
Prosecutor Jonathan Hatami countered that Burroughs could have walked away before the stabbing occurred.
“She was not being choked or punched when she grabbed the knife… He challenged her to do it and she did it,” Hatami said.
He said by fleeing the scene and then going into hiding, Burroughs showed consciousness of guilt.
“She left a person that was dying and that person did die,” Hatami said. “She did not have to hide out for three months.”
After several minutes of reviewing the evidence, Superior Court Judge Christopher Estes acknowledged that the case was tough before denying the defense’s motion to dismiss the charges.
Burroughs was ordered to stand trial and remanded back to custody on $1,020,000 bail.
Several family members on both sides of the case attended Wednesday’s hearing. After the ruling, James’ family members hugged the prosecutor, while some of Burroughs’ family members wept.
“I couldn’t even believe she’s saying it was self-defense,” said James’ cousin Angela McKenzie. “I know my cousin, I was raised with him. Never in his life have I even seen him raise his hands to any type of female.”
“I want to see justice, my son doesn’t deserve to be dead,” said Evans. “He was too good to her.”
She also denied that James was a gang member.
“He ran with the Bounty Hunters but he never gang banged,” said Evans. “She’s a gang banger, and all her baby daddies are gang bangers.”
Burroughs is due back in court for a second arraignment on September 19.