FARGO — A Fargo woman is expected to argue that she fatally stabbed her boyfriend in self-defense, her attorney said.

Terin Rene Stately, 32, pleaded not guilty on Thursday, Aug. 6, to felony murder, a charge that carries a maximum punishment of life in prison. A criminal complaint alleges she got into an altercation with her on-and-off boyfriend Keanen Joseph Poitra, 27, of Fargo, around 3:30 a.m. May 30 at her apartment, 1633 33rd Ave. S.

Then she allegedly grabbed a knife from the kitchen and stabbed him near his groin, the complaint said.

Police who responded to the 911 call found Poitra bleeding heavily. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead from a stab wound near his groin.

At first, Stately told police she didn’t know what happened to Poitra but later changed her story several times, according to court documents. In one version, she said she thrust the knife at him but didn't think she stabbed him, the complaint said.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

Defense Attorney Stormy Vickers suggested Stately was acting in self-defense. Stately told police Poitra had assaulted her in the past and the day before the stabbing, Fargo Police Detective Patrick Fylling said during a roughly hour-long hearing.

Stately also said Poitra attacked her moments before she stabbed him and that she contemplated jumping out the third-floor window to escape, Fylling said.

“She was pulled back in by Mr. Poitra,” Fylling said, referring to Stately’s statements.

Vickers called one witness who said it appeared Poitra and Stately were fighting in the parking lot of the apartment shortly before the stabbing.

Through an interpreter, Solomon Cobo testified he saw the two in the parking lot but didn’t see Poitra hit Stately. He noted Stately was covering her face.

Fylling said Stately admitted to stabbing Poitra in the past when he attacked her, noting she thought having a knife would deter him.

Stately didn’t initially tell police what happened because she was afraid Poitra would retaliate, and she didn’t want Poitra to get into trouble, Vickers said.

Prosecutor Ryan Younggren tried to discredit that claim, saying Stately didn’t have significant injuries that suggested she had to defend herself with deadly force. He also said a roommate sleeping in the apartment didn’t wake up during the struggle, though the roommate did indicate they argued, Fylling said.

The only evidence of domestic violence is Stately’s statement, Younggren said.

Judge Tom Olson declined to reduce Stately’s $1 million bond after Younggren noted her criminal history, including a 2012 federal case in Minnesota where she admitted to helping others get away in a vehicle after a robbery on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.