Charges dropped against stabbing suspect

Published 10:40 pm Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The state on Wednesday dropped all criminal charges against a woman who stabbed and killed her boyfriend in August.

Evidence shows that Tara Chevon Billups, 31, of the 1100 block of Cogic Square, was acting in self-defense on Aug. 9 when she fatally stabbed Jonathan Lamont Diggs, 30, who lived on Crittenden Road, said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Charlotte Purkey.

Billups was initially charged with second-degree murder and shoot/stab/cut or wound in the commission of a felony. A preliminary hearing on the charges was scheduled for Sept. 28.


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The action to drop the charges was added to Wednesday’s docket after police investigators found sufficient evidence to support Billups’ claim that she acted in self-defense, said Purkey.

Police found Diggs at Billups’ apartment around 6:30 a.m. Aug. 9 suffering from stab wounds to the neck and chest. He was pronounced dead at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital later that morning.

According to Purkey, evidence revealed that Diggs had been drinking heavily the night of the assault and that he suspected Billups was going out to see another man when she left to go to a friend’s birthday party. Evidence showed that he was “aggressive and violent” toward Billups and that he tried to choke one of her friends that night, Purkey said.

Diggs followed Billups into her apartment, where he attacked and tried to choke her with his hands around her neck, Purkey said. When he tried to choke her a second time, Billups grabbed a kitchen knife from a nearby table and made two quick stabbing gestures toward Diggs’ arm in an attempt to make him release his grip, Purkey said.

When Billups stabbed Diggs’ arm, it dropped just enough that her second swing missed his arm and hit Diggs in the chest, Purkey said.

“Under Virginia law, there are very few circumstances when the use of deadly force against another person is allowed,” Purkey said. “While many defendants will make a claim of ‘self- defense,’ very few claims are actually supported by the evidence.

“A homicide is ‘justifiable’ and is in self-defense when a person, through no fault of her own in provoking or bringing on the difficulty, kills another under a reasonable apprehension of death or great bodily harm to herself. Such was the situation in the Tara Billups case.”

Efforts to reach Billups at her home Wednesday afternoon were unsuccessful.

Her attorney, Barrett Richardson, said he expected her to be released from jail by late afternoon. She was held without bond in Western Tidewater Regional Jail since her arrest on Aug. 9.

“The Commonwealth’s Attorney really did a good job and went the extra mile to make this happen,” Richardson said. “It’s not often this happens, particularly this early in the process.”