A Flagstaff man who fatally stabbed his landlord during a rent dispute has been charged with murder, three months after the incident.

James Womble, 21, has been charged with one count of second-degree murder after stabbing Peter Gillespie, 63, on July 25. He pleaded not guilty to the charge and is claiming self-defense.

Womble was released to pre-trial services under his own recognizance, meaning that he will remain out of jail without having to post bail.

The charges brought a sense of relief to Gillespie’s longtime friend Marilyn Reuvers, who has been skeptical of the self-defense claim that Womble made to Flagstaff police in July.

“I am excited they actually charged someone and I hope they follow through with a trial,” Reuvers said.

The Coconino County Attorney’ Office which delayed charging Womble until it received all of the forensic evidence from the Department of Public Safety Crime Lab.

Another friend of Gillespie, Paul Deasy, also said the charges brought a sense of relief.

However, Reuvers said she was upset that Womble will not await his trial in jail.

“I don’t like the fact that he is out. He doesn’t deserve to be out,” Reuvers said. “But at least he has been charged.”

Gillespie was killed after he got into an altercation with Womble over past-due rent. The incident ended with Womble stabbing him eight times with a pair of scissors, according to the report filed by Flagstaff police.

Gillespie was stabbed with in the neck, chest, leg, left shoulder and left forearm. The coroner’s report was signed by the Coconino County Medical Examiner, Lawrence Czarnecki, who labeled multiple stab wounds as the cause of death and the manner of death a homicide.

Womble called 911 after the incident and admitted to stabbing his landlord; however, Womble told police he only stabbed Gillespie after being attacked.

He said the incident became violent after Gillespie bumped him and threw him to the ground, causing his shoulder to go out of socket. However, Womble also stated that his shoulder pops out of place often, stemming from a past injury.

Womble then claimed he grabbed a pair of scissors in self-defense, yelling at Gillespie to “get away from me. I am going to stab you. I have a bad shoulder and I can’t do anything else but stab, so please get away from me.”

According to Womble, Gillespie then began to choke him, causing Womble to stab Gillespie eight times.

Womble is scheduled to appear in court for his preliminary hearing on Dec. 8. His attorney Adam Zickerman did not respond to a request for comment.

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Max Lancaster is the crime and courts reporter for the Arizona Daily Sun. He enjoys all things music and just learned how Kombucha is made.

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