If the defense gets its way, jurors will never see video of a murder defendant hitting her boyfriend months before she stabbed him to death. But a former police officer agrees that devoid of any additional context, the February footage of Courtney Clenney, 26, striking Christian Tobechukwu “Toby” Obumseli, 27, looks “damning” and undercuts a self-defense claims.
“I think if they didn’t have that elevator video, she might have a fighting chance on self-defense,” said former cop Andrea Kristian Zendejas on a new episode of the Law&Crime Sidebar podcast.
Zendejas actually has something in common with Clenney, known online as Courtney Tailor. They’ve both modeled on OnlyFans. In Zendejas’ case, she started an account doing plus-size lingerie modeling toward the end of her time with the El Paso Police Department. She joined Sidebar host Jesse Weber, discussing the Clenney case in light of her own experience responding to domestic violence cases.
Prosecutors in Miami-Dade County, Florida, say that Clenney stabbed Obumseli in their apartment on April 3. She allegedly asserted she threw the knife at him, but authorities suggested the stab wound was too forceful to fit her side of the story.
“Some of the most vicious crimes that I’ve ever seen were committed with a knife,” Zendejas said. She acknowledged seeing incidents in which someone picked up a knife to defend themselves against a bigger target. “All the time.”
Authorities recently announced a case for second-degree murder in Obumseli’s death. Clenney attorney Frank Prieto painted Obumseli as the real wrongdoer in all of this.
“Obumseli was the abuser, the worst kind of abuser,” he previously said in a statement obtained by Law&Crime. “He would manipulate and abuse Courtney in private when he thought nobody was around. Do not forget that the initial investigation from the City of Miami Police Department uncovered an independent witness who saw Obumseli hitting Courtney in the head while he thought he was in the privacy of Courtney’s apartment.”
Friend Ashley Vaughn, however, told WPLG in April that, “We’ve seen her hit him. I’ve never seen him hit her.”
A neighbor told the outlet at the time that he had a clear view of the couple’s apartment and saw Clenney being physically abused a week before the stabbing.
“I could not tell if it was open-handed or closed-handed, but he was swinging at her,” he said.
To bolster their announcement of the criminal case, Miami-Dade prosecutors released the elevator footage in question. It is from February, about a month after the couple moved to Florida from Austin, Texas. It shows Clenney lashing out while they are in an elevator; she repeatedly struck her boyfriend. Though Obumseli grappled with her, pushed her, and put his hand to her face, it seemed to be from a defensive posture.
This is video of a previous encounter between murder suspect Courtney Clenney and her now deceased boyfriend. The 2/21/22 incident shows her attacking him in an elevator before he pushed her away. @wsvn pic.twitter.com/Dt3B0rX9Vq
— Sheldon Fox-7 News (@fox_sheldon) August 11, 2022
Zendejas acknowledged that both of them could have engaged in abuse in the relationship, but “that elevator video clearly shows that she is the aggressor, it looks like.” She called the footage “pretty damning.”
“I guess that plants a seed in our mind, ‘Maybe she was the primary aggressor,'” the former police officer said.
Expect the defense to snipe at the elevator video, trying to get it excluded from evidence.
“It is a shame that the State Attorney’s Office is seeking to win this case in the court of public opinion by showing an irrelevant and likely inadmissible video of Courtney in an elevator getting physical with Obumseli,” Prieto has said. “The video does not depict the events leading up to what was captured in the elevator.”
Asked why people get into these kinds of fights, Zendejas cited money, infidelity, “drugs, a lot of times drugs,” or lies.
“It’s just an ongoing list of things it could be,” she said.
Weber also brought up a former neighbor of the couple, who lived in the floor below them in Austin. Aidan Nesvisky said he was not sure who the aggressor was in their fights — including one in which a tiger painting was thrown onto his balcony — but he described the confrontations as raucous and “going on for a long time.”
“Behind closed doors, we just started hearing some shouting, yelling,” he told Austin FOX affiliate KTBC in a Monday report. “We don’t know who was starting what. We didn’t get a lot of context. Occasionally we would hear some glasses break and some banging on the walls, floors. Not sure who was doing it.”
Zendejas described this as “normal” in domestic violence cases.
“So those types of relationships, that’s a normal — I hate to say it — but it was a normal thing for us to respond to calls like that all the time,” she said. “And a lot of times it was the same people, over and over, but they’re both adults too. You can’t keep them away from each other unless they hurt each other and then you try to put legal process on them, and they either stay away from each other or they don’t.”
The case against Clenney is ongoing.
“Nobody has ever denied that Courtney and her abuser had a tumultuous relationship,” defense attorney Prieto has said. “It is inappropriate for prosecutors to try and taint the community against Courtney to the point she may not be able to receive a fair trial. The charging decision in this matter should have been made on the evidence of what occurred that evening in the apartment and nothing more. This is a case of self defense and the facts that will be presented at trial will prove this.”
Ultimately, Zendejas never settled on whom she thought was the aggressor in the relationship.
“There’s always three sides to a story: Your side, my side, and the truth,” she said. “So I guess you just have to wait and find out.”
[Image of Zendejas via Law&Crime Network; screenshot of the elevator fight via Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office]
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