Slain Grammy-Winning Musician Was Choked for 30 Minutes While Girlfriend Allegedly Punched Him

Lawrence Leathers, a fixture in the New York jazz scene, was found dead in early June

Lawrence Leathers
Photo: Paul CHARBIT/Gamma-Rapho via Getty

Two people have been indicted in the Bronx for their alleged roles in the slaying of Grammy-winning jazz drummer Lawrence Leathers, whose body was discovered last month in the stairwell of an apartment building.

Grand jurors returned indictments against Lisa Harris, described as Leathers’ girlfriend, and Harris’ friend, Sterling Aguilar, charging both with single counts of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

Prosecutors allege Leather, who was 37, died on June 2 during a fight with Harris in the Bronx apartment they shared.

Aguilar, 29, allegedly held Leathers in a chokehold for approximately 30 minutes as Harris, 41, sat on his chest and punched him several times in the face, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors allege that Aguilar’s grip around Leathers’ neck was so tight that some of the bones in his neck broke. After Leathers wad dead, prosecutors allege Harris dragged Leathers’ body into the stairwell of their building, where she left him to be discovered by other tenants.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined Leathers’ died from homicidal asphyxia with compression of the neck.

Neither Harris nor Aguilar has entered pleas to the charges, which were announced Thursday. Both have been released on bail, but PEOPLE was unable to reach them for comment.

Information on their lawyers was unavailable Friday.

Bronx County District Attorney Darcel Clark has promised to “pursue justice for the victim and his loved ones.”

The drummer became a fixture in New York City’s jazz scene after first arriving in the city from his native Michigan to attend the famed Juilliard School.

Leathers said he first realized his passion for drumming in grade school, when he attended church and was instantly drawn in.

“I used to go up to the drums after every service and tap on ’em,” he told Capsulocity in 2012. “There was something about the feeling, the beat. It spoke to me, you know what I mean? The swing patterns… But anyway, that was the moment when I decided I want to play drums.”

His mentor at the church, Joe Lane, described Leathers’ as a virtuoso after his death to NPR.

“I’ve never seen anyone in my life pick up any instrument he wanted to and play it almost instantly,” he said. “And not just music. He did that with everything. Anything that he wanted to. The hardest thing about this whole thing is, he was a guy who was very difficult not to love.”

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While in New York, Leathers formed a trio with pianist Aaron Diehl and bassist Paul Sikivie, which found success as the backing band for singer Cécile McLorin Salvant.

Leathers — who also found a mentor in acclaimed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis — earned his two Grammy awards playing for Salvant, on 2015’s For One to Love and 2017’s Dreams and Daggers, which both won for best jazz vocal album.

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