Friends tried to warn stabbing victim about boyfriend

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 25, 2013

Friends say they told Tasha West that her boyfriend was controlling, that their relationship was too rocky, that she should leave him for good.
West did leave Tony Lamont Luther, more than once, but she kept going back.
On Thursday, authorities say, she went back for the last time.
Police say Luther, 40, confessed to killing the 28-year-old West at his Calhoun Street apartment. He’s in the Rowan County jail charged with murder.
Around 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Luther walked into the Rowan County Magistrate’s Office, saying he had stabbed his girlfriend and wanted to turn himself in.
Before going into the magistrate’s office, Luther used blood to paint a heart on an outside wall. Inside the heart, he wrote the letters “TLT.”
He told police to go to his apartment on Calhoun Street. When officers arrived, they found West’s body.
Dorianne Molina sat on the porch of her Pine Hills Apartment Friday morning and cried over the death of her closest friend.
“I feel like I’m in a nightmare,” she said.
“Tasha had so many struggles, but she was a strong person. She was very bubbly and she always made me laugh,” Molina said.
Molina and West met about two years ago and had an immediate connection. They helped each other through tough times. West confided in Molina often and the two would stay up late at night just talking.
“I’ve never had that kind of friendship with anybody. He took that away from me,” Molina said, crying.
She said she never saw Luther become physically violent toward her friend, but he was verbally abusive. Molina said she often encouraged West to cut ties with Luther, whom Molina considered controlling.
“He kicked her out so many times,” Molina said.
West would leave and Luther would persuade her to return, Molina said.
Molina took West in nearly a month ago after she left Luther again.
She said her friend was trying to get her life on track. She’d gotten a new job, just a week before her death, at the Food Lion warehouse and was taking online criminal justice courses.
West was planning to move into her own apartment at Pine Hills with the hope of having her children there. West’s three young children live with their father, Molina said.
Still, she said, West wouldn’t completely stop communicating with Luther — they talked by phone — and Luther wouldn’t leave West alone.
Luther often stopped by Molina’s apartment, uninvited, looking for West.
Molina said she never permitted Luther inside her place, but he would peep into her window to see who was inside the apartment.
“He would circle the block trying to find out who was here,” she said.
Molina said Luther came to her apartment around 5:45 p.m. Thursday and he and West left together in his car.
Molina knew something wasn’t right when she called West later and the phone went to voicemail.
“I had this gut feeling that something was wrong,” she said.
Molina tried repeatedly to reach West by phone. She expected West to return to the apartment to get ready for bed and get up for work the next day. Molina said West never missed work.
Authorities have not divulged a suspected motive in the slaying, but Molina said she believes the murder was motivated by the fact that West became interested in another man.
“He’s very jealous,” she said of Luther. “I think it was him saying if he couldn’t have her, no one was going to have her.”
Ricky Parker, a friend who worked with West at Burger King, said he and West often caught the same bus and talked on the ride. Parker said he’d never met Luther, but was aware of the tumultuous relationship and often tried to convince West to walk away.
“She was a nice girl. She kept a smile on her face,” Parker said.
Larry Keller, who lives on Calhoun Street across from the apartment where authorities found West, said police were called to the apartment a couple of weeks ago. Authorities have not confirmed that.
Keller said he often saw West leave the apartment and that he and Luther waved to each other on the street, but he didn’t know them.
Keller called the homicide shocking.
“Everybody’s surprised. There’s not usually much that happens here,” he said.
According to the N.C. Department of Public Safety, Luther has previously been convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, assault on a law enforcement officer and drug possession, among other things.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: Facebook: