Lakeyria Doughty is the only person who lives to say exactly what happened inside the Sandtown-Winchester apartment neighborhood a couple of hours into 2021.
And if Baltimore jury is to believe her story, they’d have to take her word for several improbabilities.
Doughty, 28, better known by the nickname “Wheelie Queen” from HBO’s movie about Baltimore’s 12 O’Clock Boys, “Charm City Kings,” is accused of fatally stabbing her girlfriend Tiffany Wilson, a 33-year-old chef.
She testified at her trial Thursday, maintaining she was innocent of the charges of murder and wielding a deadly weapon, and that there was another explanation for Wilson’s death. She claims Wilson stabbed herself after attacking Doughty in a fit of jealousy after Doughty chose to attend her ex-girlfriend’s New Year’s Eve party rather than ring in the new year with the woman she was in a relationship at the time.
Wilson and Doughty exchanged a flurry of text messages that night about their relationship, and Wilson was intoxicated and angry. Doughty went to the apartment she shared with Wilson to heed her request to return her keys. She double-parked her Honda Accord around 3 a.m., left the hazard lights on, and went inside to drop off the keys and collect her belongings.
Doughty said she didn’t know Wilson was home, that she went upstairs, unplugged her cellphone charger from behind the bed they shared, grabbed two trash bags from behind her television, and packed them with clothes and shoes. She said she walked downstairs, toward the exit, and paused to tie the bags. This is when her story gets tricky.
It goes something like this: Wilson grabbed her by the head, from behind, and slashed her left leg with a knife — the same leg that suffered nerve damage from a gunshot wound in 2019. Startled and in pain, she turned around. She says Wilson grabbed her by the shirt with her left hand, wielding a knife with the right, and dragged her into the kitchen. Doughty held Wilson’s right forearm to try to control the weapon.
Once they got close to the sink, Doughty testified, she ripped her shirt from Wilson’s grasp. Because both had been pulling in opposite directions, Doughty collapsed onto her back on the ground; Wilson stumbled into the counter while holding the knife. She rolled on the counter, blood began squirting from her side and Doughty realized something terrible had happened.
“The look she had in her eyes — she wasn’t talking, she was just looking at me like ‘Help,’” an emotional Doughty testified.
Assistant State’s Attorney Shaundria Hanna told the jury none of Doughty’s story was true, saying they have good reason to be skeptical.
Doughty admitted on the witness stand to lying at least five times about what happened: to a 911 operator, to the first officer on scene, to her mother on the phone while the police tried to save Wilson, to the ex-girlfriend she called from the back of a police car, and later to homicide detectives.
“She wanted people to believe it because she thought she could get away with the murder,” Hanna said in her closing argument Thursday afternoon.
She implored jurors to believe the medical examiner, who testified that Wilson died by homicide caused by a stab wound. The blade of the kitchen knife drove more than 4 inches into the left side of Wilson’s chest, between her fourth and fifth ribs, damaging her heart and puncturing her left lung. Her lung and chest cavity filled with blood. There was a cut on her left thumb. Bruises and abrasions marked her face.
Hanna said it was implausible to think Wilson could stab a knife so deep into her own chest. She referred the jury to Dr. Richard Morris’ testimony that the cut on her hand could’ve been a defense wound, and the teeth marks imprinted in her lips were caused by blunt force trauma. Hanna said that indicated Doughty punched Wilson during a scuffle in which Wilson’s earrings and eyelashes were torn off.
“Nothing points to this being an accident,” Hanna said.
Doughty’s defense lawyer, Andrea Jaskulsky, acknowledged that her client’s story was hard to believe but said the scientific evidence supported Doughty’s account.
“Everything is theoretically impossible until it’s done,” Jaskulsky told the jury, quoting science fiction author and engineer Robert A. Heinlein.
Doughty’s DNA was found on the blade of the knife. Jaskulsky said that suggested she’d been cut with it, as Doughty said she’d been. It also was identified under the fingernails of Wilson’s left hand. Jaskulsky said that explained scratches on Doughty’s chest and bolstered her account for how she was grabbed by the shirt.
Only Wilson’s DNA was identified on the knife handle, which, Jaskulsky said, meant “there was no question about who had the knife.”
“This isn’t a murder,” Jaskulsky said during her closing argument. “It’s an unfortunate accident.”
But the state gets the last word in closing arguments because it bears the burden of proof. Hanna rebutted with the testimony of Christy Silbaugh, a DNA analyst with the Baltimore Police Department’s crime lab. Silbaugh said there was another small, unidentifiable strand of DNA on the handle, and that blood is far more rich with DNA than epithelial, or skin, cells, and far more likely to show up on a test.
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“The defendant’s epithelial cells weren’t there because the victim’s blood masked it,” Hanna said.
During deliberations, the jury will have the opportunity to review thousands of pages of text messages between Doughty and Wilson from the days and hours leading up to the fatal stabbing.
The messages, as read aloud in court by homicide detective Frank Miller, depicted a tenuous relationship and messy New Year’s Eve. Wilson asked for her keys back roughly 30 times, but wouldn’t follow through when Doughty made and carried out plans to return them. In the same hourslong stretch when both agreed their relationship was over, they exchanged messages that said “love you.”
As Jaskulsky put it, Doughty and Wilson were caught in a “lovers’ quarrel.”
How that quarrel resulted is now up for jurors to decide, and Doughty’s testimony could be key. The jury broke for the day around 5:45 p.m., and is expected to resume deliberating around 9:15 a.m. Friday.
On the witness stand, Doughty was challenged by Hanna on what the texts depicted, questioning her changing accounts of the size of the knife and on what she said when answering Jaskulsky’s questions in court.
“All of this is emotional,” Doughty responded. “I don’t remember what I said up there for the jury.”