Police: N. Charleston woman says she accidentally stabbed boyfriend in heart, didn't fear him during fight

ANDREW KNAPP/STAFF Loved ones of A'Kara Edwards' comfort one another Thursday as Edwards breaks down in tears during a bond hearing. Edwards was charged with murder in the stabbing death of her boyfriend, Alex Whipple, 22.

Soon after she ordered her boyfriend out of her North Charleston home, A'Kara Travil Edwards looked into her driveway and saw him bashing her Chrysler with a hammer, according to documents released Thursday.

Edwards, 19, told Alex Steven Whipple to stop. But when her 22-year-old boyfriend from West Ashley didn't stop, Edwards grabbed a kitchen knife and went outside to scare him away, she told the police.

"He charged at me," Edwards said Monday afternoon in a 911 call. "And I stabbed him with a knife. ... I just jabbed him really quickly."

The knife plunged into Whipple's heart, and he died quickly outside the home at 2333 Kent Ave.

But parts of Edwards' story didn't jibe with how detectives from the North Charleston Police Department saw the crime scene. They arrested her two days later on charges of murder and possession of a knife during a violent crime.

It's a case whose outcome could further define the limits of the S.C. Protection of Persons and Property Act, which contains the state's "stand your ground" law. The death was the city's 13th homicide this year.

"This was honestly, honest to God, an accident," Edwards' mother said during a bail hearing Thursday. "This was an accident that we will live with for the rest of our lives."

The investigators said they found that Whipple's stab wound was not consistent with Edwards' account that he had stepped into the knife.

Edwards, who waived her right to remain silent, also told the detectives that she wasn't fearful when Whipple came after her, despite her accounts that he was acting aggressively and clutching a hammer. Fearing imminent harm is a vital component of the state's self-defense law.

But police spokesman Spencer Pryor said the investigators' reasons for charging Edwards, including details of the knife wound, would not be made public before her trial. Edwards' arrest, rather, was "based on the totality of information received and gathered," Pryor said.

It was Edwards' first trip to jail in South Carolina, according to the State Law Enforcement Division. Her boyfriend had been there at least four times.

Since 2009, Whipple has faced three charges related to cocaine possession, but each was dismissed during preliminary hearings. He was convicted of third-degree assault and battery in April 2011.

The couple's fatal encounter started around noon Monday when they started arguing inside Edwards' home. She made Whipple leave, and she locked the door, according to arrest affidavits.

Soon, though, Edwards heard a banging outside and saw Whipple using the hammer to vandalize her silver Chrysler 300, the affidavits stated. She told the police that she grabbed a black-handled kitchen knife and went outside "in an attempt to scare him," the documents stated.

"The victim came up to her, and she pushed him away," an incident report stated. "The victim then threw the hammer down and put his fist up as if to fight."

When Whipple lunged at her, Edwards put up her hands, and he "stepped into the knife," the documents stated.

Edwards' didn't indicate that the stabbing was an accident during her 911 call moments later. She held her hand to Whipple's wound as he gasped for air.

"Alex. Alex," she said. "Alex!"

Police officers later found the hammer in front of her car.

Regardless of whether an attacker has a weapon, state law allows people acting lawfully to use deadly force if they have "reasonable fear of imminent peril" in certain situations.

Edwards said she was "not in fear at the time," the affidavits stated, though the Police Department's spokesman declined to say how that played into the decision to arrest her.

When Edwards appeared for the bond hearing Thursday, she buried her face into her hands and wailed. She apologized to her loved ones and to Whipple's family.

She and Whipple often lived at her Kent Avenue home in the Dorchester Terrace community. He sometimes cooked for her, relatives said. She cared for him when he was sick, and they had been planning a life together.

"She's standing in a position that she doesn't want to be in," Rosetta Givens Mitchell said of her granddaughter. "She, too, has lost someone."

The night before he died, Whipple got some money from his mother, Micki Zalatimo, to buy pizza. They later traded "I love you" text messages - an exchange that gave his mother comfort, Zalatimo said during the hearing.

She called him a "wonderful son" and an amazing friend." Anybody who knew him, Zalatimo said, loved him.

Zalatimo and a police detective called Edwards a danger to the community, and after the hearing, she deflected Edwards' contention that the stabbing was accidental.

"She's in a jail she built for herself. That is where I want her to stay," Zalatimo said. "I want her to have some time to think about what she's done."

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.