The December night when Fatima Barrie was stabbed outside of a downtown club was cold and rainy.
Outside of Republic Live, at 301 W. Fifth St., where she and her friends had spent a couple of hours listening to music, crowds of people poured onto the streets after the bars closed, and three party buses waited to take people back to East Austin, witnesses have testified.
But the fight that ensued between Barrie and Kaitlyn Ritcherson, then a teenager who investigators say did not know Barrie, was not captured by any security or cellphone cameras, and the stories from those who saw it unfold are conflicting, testimony over the past two weeks of Ritcherson’s murder trial has shown.
Ritcherson, who has said she is innocent, initially faced a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for the incident, which occurred in the early hours of Dec. 4, 2011. But the offense was upgraded to first-degree murder after Barrie, a 21-year-old track star and a junior biology major at Huston-Tillotson University, died of her injuries days before Christmas.
Ritcherson, then a high school student who worked at two clothing stores at Barton Creek Square mall, is facing five to 99 years in prison.
On Friday, Chris Carson, 25, a friend of Ritcherson’s, told jurors that another young man — a stranger he said had attempted to start an argument with him before — had glared at him inside Republic Live, and the two began a dispute that carried outside and quickly escalated.
Carson said that neither of them threw a punch but that out of nowhere he saw Barrie rush up to Ritcherson and strike her on the forehead with what looked like a black high heel. Ritcherson stumbled back, and Barrie fell to the ground but got back up, Carson said.
“The next you know is they came back together, and they smacked right into each other,” he said, slapping his palms together. A crowd surrounded them, he said, diving into the brawl.
His sister, Britney Carson, testified that she saw her cousin and Ritcherson, now 21, fighting with Barrie and a group of girls. Carson, 23, said that she thought Barrie hit Ritcherson with a cellphone and that she later saw Ritcherson holding her red clutch purse in front of her in one hand and a knife in her other hand, trembling.
Britney Carson said Barrie told the defendant, “I am not afraid of your knife; you are going to get your ass kicked.” Carson said, “After that, the whole group of girls run toward Ashley (her cousin) and Kaitlyn.”
Prosecutors said that the Carsons never came forward to authorities, though they heard about the incident in the news within days. Barrie’s friends have told jurors that Ritcherson and her friends started the dispute.
Officers did not recover a knife, and Ritcherson’s clothes had the blood of the victim but also the DNA profiles of three men who were never identified or questioned by police, according to testimony.
After Britney Carson’s suggestion that Ritcherson pulled out a knife in self-defense, attorneys will have a hearing Monday to determine whether Ritcherson’s mother will be allowed to testify for the state. Outside the presence of the jury, she took the stand Friday and said her daughter had attempted to stab her brother four years ago.