In surreptitious cell phone recordings, Courtney Clenney can be heard berating her boyfriend Christian Obumseli, hurling insults at him, calling him a racist slur, and seemingly slapping him. The videos were taken by Obumseli on his cell phone some time before April 3, when Clenney fatally stabbed him with a six-inch kitchen knife in the couple’s luxury Miami apartment. Clenney has been charged with Obumseli’s murder, but she claims she acted in self defense. Three brief recordings were provided in the discovery phase of the murder case against Clenney and first published by the Miami Herald. Rolling Stone has obtained the recordings, which run between one and seven minutes in length.
In a five-minute video that appears to have been taken inside the couple’s apartment, the lens is mostly blocked, but Clenney can be heard demanding Obumseli find her cell phone and berating him for talking to another woman. “Shut up and let me fucking slap you, dumbass,” she says, and repeatedly screams for her phone, her voice ragged and hoarse. “Find my fucking phone and charge it,” she says. “You always wanted to fuck her,” she says, referring to a woman Obumseli apparently spoke to without telling her. “I was on a bike ride and she passed me,” Obumseli says. “And I said ‘Hi, you and Courtney are having a live chat.’ My bad, I forgot to tell you that. That doesn’t make you to act— and call me a fucking n—-r.” Clenney replies, “You’re a fucking n—-r.” Then there’s the sound of a slap. Later in the clip, Obumseli calls Clenney a pet name as he seemingly continues to look for her phone. “You remember the last place you had it, CC?” he calls to her. “Nope! Find it,” she responds.
“Decide whether or not you’re done gaslighting me,” Clenney says in another clip, a minute-long video that appears to have been taken in the lobby of their apartment building, One Paraiso. She interrupts Obumseli when he tries to speak. “I apologized, but you hit me,” he says, eventually. She lowers her voice to a whisper. “Shut the fuck up, bitch,” she said. “Don’t fucking say that.”
Police body camera footage taken in the same lobby was also recently made public in discovery. It shows Clenney speaking with police officers who were responding to a 911 call from building staff just days before the stabbing. A former building staffer told Rolling Stone Clenney had “shoved” Obumseli out of the elevator that night, and an employee in the video told police Obumseli had “charged” toward Clenney in the lobby. In that recording, Clenney alternated between rage and desperation, telling police she wanted to be “exonerated” of wrongdoing and saying that she wanted a restraining order against Obumseli. Clenney’s lawyers said in a TV interview that footage proved her defense, while a lawyer for Obumseli’s family called it “self-serving.”
The latest recordings offer the first opportunity since the investigation began for the public to hear the couple interacting, providing further insight into their troubled dynamic in a case that hinges upon who was the victim and who was the abuser. When announcing Clenney’s arrest, prosecutors released surveillance footage of Clenney pushing and hitting Obumseli in the elevator at their residence, but there is no sound.
Attorneys for Clenney say the newly released recordings illustrate the couple’s toxic relationship but lack context. “She’s not going to trial for her lifestyle, her previous arguments, or recorded rants,” her legal team said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “She is going to trial for defending herself against a violent struggle with her ex-boyfriend for which she feared for her life; Courtney is a victim of domestic abuse. Snapshots of ‘evidence’ without any context will prevent our client from receiving a fair trial, where the evidence will show that Courtney acted in self-defense.”
Larry Handfield, a lawyer for Obumseli’s family, described the recordings as “shocking” to the Herald. “I see it as a consistent pattern with someone who is unhinged and out of control,” he said. “She is the aggressor and abuser in this whole relationship.”
Ahead of Clenney’s arrest, reporting by Rolling Stone showed friends of the couple believed Clenney had been the aggressor in an abusive relationship with Obumseli, whom they claimed they had never seen be violent towards her. When Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced the murder charge against Clenney in August, she said Obumseli had died the victim of domestic violence. Clenney’s attorneys have maintained that she stabbed him in self-defense, before trying to help him. “She tried to administer first aid as best she could; she called 911,” Clenney’s attorney Frank Prieto told Rolling Stone in May. “She got covered in his blood trying to save his life.”
In the longest recording, which runs more than seven minutes, Obumseli can be heard begging Clenney to get back in the car over the sounds of traffic and blaring horns. A bystander attempts to calm her down. Clenney sounds extremely agitated and says that she wants to kill herself, then explains to a man who’s pulled over amid the chaos that she got into an altercation with someone in another car. “I opened the door and I got out and I fucking hit him, and then [Obumseli] said, ‘Go apologize to that man,’” she says. “I feel like I don’t have anywhere to go but my head.”
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When Clenney stabbed Obumseli, she was questioned by police then “Baker Acted,” meaning committed involuntarily for mental health treatment. Clenney’s lawyer, Prieto, told Rolling Stone at the time this was because she had threatened to harm herself. After that, Obumseli’s family has questioned why it took authorities more than four months to make an arrest. They believed she was receiving special treatment because she was a white woman and Obumseli a Black man. At the time of Clenney’s arrest, Prieto has stated she was in rehab for PTSD and substance abuse.
In the video taken by the roadside, Obumseli and the bystander ask Clenney to breathe and relax. “CC just stop, please,” Obumseli says. “Fuck you,” she screams. “You make yourself look good in front of people.” He says he’s sorry for trying to make her apologize to the person she hit in the other car. “Fuck you” she says repeatedly. “You just told me to fucking apologize to a lowlife.” Slaps can be heard before the video ends. “Stop fucking hitting me,” Obumseli says. “It’s OK, just stop!”