Salisbury man sentenced to life in prison for 2013 stabbing death of Tasha West
Tasha Nicole West had started to better her life and had even met someone, but those were the very things that officials say made on again, off again boyfriend, Tony Lamont Luther, snap.
On May 23, 2013, Luther stabbed West in the heart at his Calhoun Street apartment and shortly after turned himself into the Rowan County Magistrate’s Office.
Luther was sentenced Friday afternoon to life in prison without parole after accepting a guilty plea in Rowan County Superior court. Rowan District Attorney Brandy Cook revealed a horrible account of the couples’ tumultuous relationship and what led to West’s death.
Luther told police he “blanked” and “lost it.” He said he grabbed for West’s hand. She asked him what he was doing and he stabbed her in the heart.
“Those were her last words,” he told police.
Luther said he’d “stabbed her in the heart like the movies.”
He said she’d gotten a job and he thought she’d move on without him.
He told police that his plan was to come at police with the knife so that they’d have no choice but to shoot him. But instead he turned himself in and confessed to the murder.
According to the medical examiner’s report, West had two stab wounds to the chest area. She also had other wounds to her buttocks, but tests didn’t confirm whether she’d been sexually assaulted.
Luther had gone to see his mother, Marilyn Dillard, at her Salisbury home to tell her he’d killed West and he was going to turn himself into law enforcement. She told authorities her son appeared intoxicated and arrived holding a bottle of gin in his hand.
He told his mother to have a good life and said goodbye.
Luther went to see his brother, Brandon Dillard, where he said, “I just killed her bro, I love you.”
Luther also went to his aunt’s house, according to court statements.
Marilyn and Brandon Dillard arrived at the apartment while police were there and asked if Tasha West was, “OK” and said Luther just told them he killed her.
Brandon Dillard reportedly told police his brother was stupid and he “did not have to kill her.”
Salisbury Police went into Luther’s Calhoun Street apartment and found West’s partially naked body covered in blood in the living room.
Luther confessed to police that he’d stabbed West in the heart with a “Rambo” knife in the kitchen and then moved her body to the couch where he left her. He left the knife beside her body, court documents said.
Luther arrived in his vehicle on at the Rowan County Magistrate’s Office, approached two sheriff’s deputies and told them he’d just killed his girlfriend with a knife. The men asked Luther if he was serious.
His socks were covered in blood. Luther used those same socks to write “TLT” in blood with a heart around it on an outside wall of the magistrate’s office.
He began crying and told the deputies “she should not have left him for another man,” a court statement said.
He told detectives “I love her but I had to kill that b—h. I saw her take her last breath.”
A day after the murder, police received a call from Myers Forest Products, where Luther had worked. He’d left them a message on the company’s voice mail on the day of the murder where he confessed to killing his girlfriend. He thanked the company for their help and said he “messed up.”
When a police detective took a statement from Luther he made a “correction” and wrote at the bottom of the statement: “Sorry for what I did. I will pay. But I love you. Tasha and Tony forever.”
Friends told the Post shortly after West’s murder they tried to talk her out of leaving Luther on several occasions, but every time she returned to him.
Dorianne Molina spoke with the Post a few days after her friend’s death about the verbal abuse West endured.
Molina told police that she’d never seen Luther physically hurt her friend, but he regularly stalked her and called her repeatedly. She told investigators Luther would get jealous and even stalked West at her last job at Burger King.
West and Luther met at the homeless shelter. He told investigators he stalked her in order to find out where she’d gone after leaving the shelter so that he could “get with her.” The pair moved into a boarding house on West Horah Street and later into the apartment on Calhoun Street.
According to Luther, when West cheated on him he threatened both West and the other man.
Luther told West he couldn’t live without her, Molina told authorities. On one occasion Luther called West on her phone about 30 times in one day. West had moved out of the apartment three or four times, but each time she returned.
Molina’s statements were read in court and recounted incidents where Luther waited at Molina’s Pine Hills apartment where West had been staying. Tasha West had been staying with Molina for about a month. West was waiting to get into her own apartment there. She had begun taking online criminal justice courses and had begun a new job at Food Lion.
The day West was killed Molina said Tony Luther asked to speak with West, who got into his car and left.
Molina contacted the new man in West’s life whom she only knew as Alonzo. He told Molina he’d not seen West since earlier that day.
Molina continued to call West’s cell phone, but got no answer.
West left behind three children — an 11-year-old, a 7-year-old and a 6-year-old — all of whom are staying with her parents, Paul and Susan Connor.
Her 11-year-old daughter wrote a letter to the judge explaining the hurt she’s endured since her mother’s death.
“What Tony has done has hurt me and my family. He hurt our family over something dumb. I just hurt so much,” she wrote.
The children are having a hard time adjusting, District Attorney Brandy Cook said.
West’s family asked that they not have to endure a trial and that Luther be given life in prison so that they could in some way gain some closure, Cook said.
Cook called the murder a violent attack.
Luther’s attorney, James Davis, said on behalf of his client he sent his sincerest apologies to West’s family.
“What Tony Luther did was a terrible thing,” Davis said.
He said perhaps by admitting his guilt Luther would be able to in some way “do the right thing.”
Davis recounted Luther’s troubled childhood by saying his client had been in and out of foster homes and was eventually adopted. As a child he didn’t know how to eat with utensils, Davis said.
At eight years old, Luther tried to hang himself on the monkey bars in school. He also tried to kill himself while in jail, he said, by attempting to jump from a top floor. He again tried to kill himself by driving his vehicle into a dumpster.
Luther’s other attorney, Jay White, said his client had gone for years with undiagnosed mental health issues. He now takes prescribed medication for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as well as a depressive disorder.
White said Luther told him he only wanted to feel normal and never felt worth anything.
He’d been placed on suicide prevention since June 17 and it was recommended that he seek psychiatric evaluation and treatment, according to an August 2013 court document.
“Structure is what he needs,” White said.
Anyone who knows someone or who is a victim of domestic violence is urged to contact the Family Crisis Council of Rowan County at its 24-hour hotline at 704-636-4718.
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.
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