Slain man’s family relieved by conviction

Posted Feb. 10, 2011, at 9:19 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 10, 2011, at 9:48 p.m.
Arthur R. Tilley Jr.
Photo courtesy of family
Arthur R. Tilley Jr.

BANGOR — The woman who shot and killed Dedham resident and well-known Bangor Kiwanis Club member Arthur Tilley Jr. was convicted in a Florida courtroom Thursday of second degree murder.

When the verdict was read, four of his family members and two friends were in the courtroom, and several couldn’t help but cry.

Art Tilley’s younger brother, Matthew Tilley, said he felt “a huge sense of relief” when the guilty verdict was read. “It’s been a hard year.”

Tamra Suzanne Leasure, 45, of Riverview, Fla., was convicted of shooting an unarmed Tilley three times in her kitchen on March 5, 2009.

“Once they convicted her, since it’s a felony, they put the handcuffs on her and led her off,” said Matthew Tilley, who lives in Bangor. “We were not looking for revenge, but greatly wanted a certain amount of justice.”

Law enforcement authorities and the court system in Florida provided that justice, he said.

“We’re very happy with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, who did the investigation, and lead Detective [Geoffrey] Harris,” Matthew Tilley said, also mentioning Florida Assistant State Attorney Ronald Gale, who prosecuted the case, and Florida’s 13th Circuit Court Judge Manuel Lopez, the trial judge.

“They did a fantastic job. We would have been pleased even if the verdict had come back different because of their hard work,” he said.

Art and Matthew Tilley’s sister, Anne Landbergs of Massachusetts, and her two daughters, Victoria and Kathryn Landbergs, and two family friends, Elizabeth Ryan and Nancy Golding, also traveled to Tampa, Fla., for the trial.

As soon as the verdict was known, a call was made to Bangor to inform Art’s mother and father, Harriett and Arthur Tilley Sr., that the woman who killed their oldest son was guilty of murder and will spend at least 25 years in prison for the crime. The victim’s father is a former member of the Bangor City Council.

During the trial this week, Leasure claimed she was trying to defend herself from her drunken friend. She testified that Tilley threatened to kill her, shoved her and came at her.

Matthew Tilley said he thought the key to the jury’s verdict was Leasure’s own testimony and the numerous police interview tapes in which she changed her story over and over.

“They didn’t believe her,” he said of the six jurors. “Her story kept changing.”

The hardest part of the trial was seeing the pictures of the crime scene and listening as the defense painted an ugly portrait of his brother, Matthew Tilley said.

“Art was very, very kind, giving and generous, to a fault sometimes,” he said. “He was in a very vulnerable place due to his alcoholism. I think she totally took advantage of him.”

Tilley, 57, who grew up in Bangor, was president of Page Answering Service and Com-Nav Inc., both based in Brewer, where he worked for more than 30 years.

He spent much of his time as a youth at the Bangor YMCA and graduated from Bangor High School.

Tilley joined the Bangor Kiwanis Club in 1977 and was a lifetime member of Kiwanis International. He served as president of the Bangor Kiwanis Club, lieutenant governor of Division 25 of the New England District, and community services chairman for the New England District. He was named Bangor’s Kiwanian of the Year in 1991.

He also served as secretary of the New England District of Kiwanis and was awarded the Irving R. Talberth Outstanding Club Secretary Award in November 2001.

“He was a proud owner of a Kiwanis red jacket,” Holden resident and friend Peter Golding said.

The funds from the red jacket sales supported the trauma unit at Children’s Hospital in Boston, and Tilley was often seen wearing his at Kiwanis events, Golding said.

Leasure’s sentencing is set for March 14, and Matthew Tilley said he and the others plan to attend.

“She’s looking at 25 years. That’s the mandatory minimum,” he said. “I think it’s going to be life.”

Art Tilley’s little brother said the family will always wonder what happened to the man they loved.

People claim there are two sides to every story, Matthew Tilley said, noting that the prosecution and defense got to have their say.

In this case there is another side, he added.

“The third side is Art’s story,” Matthew Tilley said. “We’ll never hear his side.”

The Associated Press and St. Petersburg Times contributed to this report.

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