Police believe a Grammy-winning jazz drummer was murdered in his Bronx building on Sunday, allegedly from a chokehold so tight it broke his neck.
Prosecutors say Sterling Aguilar, 28, collared 37-year-old Lawrence Leathers with his arm while 41-year-old Lisa Harris, Leathers's live-in partner, punched him repeatedly in the head. According to the NY Daily News, Leathers's landlord at 438 East 141 Street discovered his body around 11:40 a.m ., and when she touched his neck—which Aguilar allegedly gripped hard enough to snap bones—she knew instantly that he was dead.
"They had a party the night before, and I figured he just OD'ed," the landlord told the Daily News. "Oh my God, there was a murder in my house."
According to the NY Post, Leathers left Harris's graduation barbecue in a huff, later texting her to accuse her of cheating. Harris and Aguilar then went over to the couple's Mott Haven apartment to pick up her kids. An argument ensued between the three of them, and according to Harris, Leathers became aggressive enough that she "sat on him to restrain him." Regardless, Aguilar allegedly pinned Leathers down in the hallway outside his apartment, holding him until he passed out, according to police. Investigators reportedly suspect that the pair—whose relationship to one another is murky—dragged his body into the stairwell, where the landlord found him.
Harris and Aguilar have been arrested and charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
Leathers moved from Michigan to New York City in 2007 to attend the prestigious Juilliard School, where he met pianist Aaron Diehl and bassist Paul Sikive. Together, they formed the Aaron Diehl Trio, going on to back Cecile McLorin Salvant on her world tours and on two of her Grammy-winning albums, 2017's "Dreams and Daggers" and 2015's "For One to Love." He had a show scheduled Monday night at Smalls in the West Village, and performed regularly at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in Midtown.
"He had an acute social awareness," Diehl described Leathers to NPR Music. "He knew how to observe situations and people, and because of that he knew exactly how to engage. This directly translated into his musicianship. He was always aware of everyone and everything around him, with the objective to be supportive, to groove, and to simply lift the bandstand with euphoria. Every time I played with Lawrence Leathers, there was some kind of levitation going on."
Update: This post has been corrected to reflect the murder occurred in the Bronx, and not Manhattan as previously stated.