LANCASTER – Two eyewitnesses and two sheriff’s deputies took the witness stand Tuesday as prosecutors worked to establish the sequence of events leading up to the stabbing death of 25-year-old Mantwell James.
The testimony came during the first day of the preliminary hearing for Neffertashia Ann Burroughs, 21, who is charged with James’ murder.
Shortly after midnight on Feb. 28, deputies reportedly found James wounded and bleeding in the front yard of Burroughs’ home in the 44200 block of Cedar Avenue in Lancaster. James died at the hospital.
A warrant was issued for Burroughs’ arrest shortly after the incident, and Burroughs was placed on the Sheriff’s Department’s Most Wanted list. Burroughs turned herself in to the Palmdale Station on May 2. That day, Burroughs told The AV Times that James’ death was an accident. She said James had been violently attacking her in front of several witnesses when the incident happened. (Read more here).
At Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, two of those witnesses gave testimony.
Cousins Brian and Jeromy Outlaw said they were at Burroughs’ home, along with several friends, drinking and listening to music on February 28, the night of the altercation.
Both men said they were in the kitchen “shooting dice” when a fight broke out between Burroughs and James. They said another female at the home had sparked the initial argument by jokingly suggesting that Burroughs was having a sexual relationship with Brian Outlaw.
“Mantwell started arguing with Tasha (Neffertashia) about her messing with me,” said Brian Outlaw, who later testified that the two were, in fact, having a sexual relationship.
The argument escalated into a fist fight, with James throwing the first punch, Brian Outlaw testified. He said James knocked Burroughs to the floor twice, and at one point, James wrapped his arms around her neck in a choke hold.
Brian Outlaw said he and Jeromy Outlaw tried to break up the fight as the two tussled from the kitchen, into the living, and back into the kitchen. In the midst of the fighting, Burroughs grabbed a knife that was sitting on the kitchen counter, Brian Outlaw testified.
“She was trying to get him to stay away from her,” Brian Outlaw said.
James continued to move toward Burroughs while daring her to stab him, Brian Outlaw testified; and then Burroughs stabbed James at least once with the knife, he said. After the stabbing, Burroughs immediately dropped the knife and appeared surprised, Brian Outlaw testified.
He said Burroughs offered to take James to the hospital, but James refused.
“This all could have been avoided,” Brian Outlaw said.
Jeromy Outlaw also testified that James started the fist fight after hearing that Burroughs might be sleeping with Brian Outlaw.
The two were fighting “toe to toe” and, at one point, Burroughs was on the ground and James was choking her, Jeromy Outlaw testified.
Once he saw Burroughs grab the knife from the kitchen counter, Jeromy Outlaw said he left the room to call 9-1-1 because he sensed that something bad was about to happen. The knife was on the counter because the men had previously used it to retrieve dice from under the stove, Jeromy Outlaw testified.
Shortly after he left the room, he heard others in the home yelling at him to call the paramedics, Jeromy Outlaw testified. James followed Burroughs outside the home trailing blood, Jeromy Outlaw testified.
He said James was cupping his collar bone area and complaining of pain. When James removed his hand from his neck area, “blood started gushing like a waterfall,” Jeromy Outlaw testified. James swore at Burroughs when she offered to help him, Jeromy Outlaw said.
He said when Burroughs left the house, James was still alive.
Sheriff’s deputy Cindy Prather testified that she responded to the Cedar Avenue residence around 12:33 a.m. on February 28. She said Jeromy Outlaw ran into the street and waved her down for help.
James was lying face down in the front lawn in a pool of blood, Prather testified. She said she inspected the home and found trails of blood in several areas of the home.
Prather said James still had a faint heart beat or pulse when the paramedics arrived. She said she received a call about an hour later that James had passed away.
Sheriff’s deputy Yeni Deciga testified that she was assigned to canvass the area for witnesses. Deciga testified that a neighbor reported hearing a woman screaming “Weezy’s dead! Weezy’s dead!” around the time of the incident.
“Weezy” was a nickname for James, the two cousins testified. The preliminary hearing continues tomorrow (Sept. 5) at Antelope Valley courthouse. The lead detectives in the case are expected to testify.