By TINA A. CHAMBERS
The Hartford Courant
July 29, 2006
Onita Chambers, a lifelong resident of Hartford, pleaded not guilty Friday in Superior Court in Hartford. She was arrested Thursday night after surrendering to Hartford police. She remained in custody and her case was continued until next month. Steven Joseph Sitton, 56, was found lying on the kitchen floor about 11:50 p.m. July 20 at his apartment at 34Pliny St. He died later at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center.
Through her lawyer, Chambers claimed Friday that she was a victim of domestic violence at the hands ofSitton, who died of a single stab wound in the chest. "He would not let her leave the apartment. His drinking had gotten worse when he lost his job," defense attorney John F. O'Brien said after the hearing. He said Chambers was being held against her will, and Sitton had threatened her with a cache of guns, which she did not know were fake until after his death.
"She knew he had guns, had the propensity to use violence and he wouldn't let her out. She tried to escape and she grabbed a knife thinking it would scare him and he'd let her leave," O'Brien said Chambers told police. "He lunged at her and he was stabbed."
That's the story that O'Brien said Chambers told police when she was interviewed after the stabbing. But the arrest affidavit revealed two other accounts that police say Chambers told detectives before her arrest.In the first account, court records show that Chambers told police on the night of the stabbing that she "heard him stumbling up the rear stairs and he came in the rear door." She said, he "started taking off his clothes and said to her `I think I got stabbed" then he collapsed on the floor."
The investigating officers said they looked for traces of blood in the rear hallway, inside Sitton's truck and in the rear parking lot, but found none. The officers located a witness who told them that she heard the couple arguing minutes before the police arrived, the affidavit said.
At the police station, Chambers told Hartford detectives that Sitton kicked in the back door and immediately fell on the floor near the doorway, the affidavit said. She told police that she took off Sitton's clothes so she could check to see where he was stabbed. She placed wet towels on his injury before calling for help, the record said.
The day after the stabbing, police said Chambers called her ex-husband and confided that "Joe was smacking her around so she stabbed him in the chest," the court record said.
On Monday when she was interviewed for a third time by police, the records said, Chambers told detectives that she had been out drinking with Sitton on the night of the incident and he became upset when she forced him to drive her home.
She said he went back out July 20 and was still upset with her when he returned home about 10:30 p.m., the court record shows. Chambers told police that she got out of bed and called her son, who she wanted to take her for a ride. But Sitton "grabbed the phone out of her hand and she tried to make it out the front door. Steven grabbed her and dragged her back towards the kitchen," according to the affidavit.
Sitton was kicking and punching her, and tore her nightgown, the court records said. She knew "he wasn't going to stop, that he was out to hurt her." She said she was walking toward the back door when she grabbed a knife. "Steve lunged at her and she noticed he was stabbed."
She told police she ran into the bathroom, wet a towel and washed his face before calling 911 for help, the affidavit said.
Asked why she changed her stories, Chambers told the detective that "Steven wouldn't want anyone to know that he beats her up."
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