Two conflicting narratives have emerged following the April 3 stabbing death of Christian “Toby” Obumseli in the luxury Miami apartment he shared with his girlfriend, OnlyFans model Courtney Clenney. While Clenney’s lawyer said she was a “victim of domestic violence” and acted in self-defense, Obumseli’s family and friends have publicly denied this. Some friends of the couple told reporters the relationship was abusive, but that Clenney was the aggressor. Although police have not named any suspects nor made any arrests in the stabbing, Clenney’s lawyer, Frank Prieto, essentially told the Miami Herald Clenney stabbed Obumseli, claiming it was self-defense. “This is a tragedy for all involved, but it was not criminal conduct,” Prieto said. “Courtney was defending herself and the investigation will reveal exactly that.”
Meanwhile, Obumseli’s family has disputed any claim that the killing was an act of self-defense. Last Friday, Obumseli’s family held a press conference in which Larry Handfield, an attorney for the family, said he expected charges to come soon against Obumseli’s killer. “At this point, all they’re looking for is justice,” Handfield said. Handfield told Rolling Stone the killing was “unprovoked,” and he expressed dismay that Clenney has not been arrested. “To add insult to injury, the person responsible for killing [Obumseli] is walking around free and has not been arrested for causing the death of this young man,” he says. “She has not shown any remorse for her actions and it is obvious to the family that Ms. Clenney … is receiving special treatment that is not afforded to the rest of us.”
Prieto sent Rolling Stone a statement saying it was “irresponsible” of Handfield to suggest Clenney is receiving special treatment. He claimed Clenney was the victim of domestic violence. “There is competent and substantial evidence that Courtney is the victim of domestic violence,” the statement says. “There is no doubt the two of them had a tumultuous relationship; moreover, there is evidence that Courtney was a victim of physical, emotional, and mental abuse at the hands of Obumseli. That night was no different and Courtney had the right to defend herself out of fear for her life.” He also said Clenney cooperated with investigators and that Clenney is “filled with absolute grief and despair” as she mourns the loss of Obumseli.
According to the official police version, Obumseli was killed by a single stab wound following a “domestic violence incident,” and his girlfriend was detained at the scene before being taken to a mental hospital. Clenney has not been named by the police in connection with the incident, although last week, friends of Obumseli confirmed her identity to Rolling Stone and her lawyer has since publicized her identity.
According to the Herald’s reporting, multiple anonymous sources said Clenney and Obumseli had broken up ahead of the incident, and that Clenney had been afraid to leave the apartment because Obumseli “kept trying to find ways into the building and sleeping in common areas,” the Herald reported. But multiple friends of Obumseli’s who have known him since grade school and requested anonymity tell Rolling Stone they believed the couple were still together, citing, in part, a Snapchat video Obumseli sent of Clenney dancing the day before the stabbing.
Three people who claim to have known Obumseli and Clenney as a couple recently spoke to ABC affiliate Local 10, saying they’d seen Clenney act abusively toward Obumseli, not the other way around. “I’ve seen her hit him. I’ve never seen him hit her,” Ashley Vaughn told the news outlet. “From what we’ve personally experienced between the both of them, we believe that Christian wouldn’t put her in a position where she would need to stab him to protect herself.” However, a neighbor of the couple also spoke to Local 10 and said he’d seen Obumseli “swinging at” Clenney in the apartment ahead of the stabbing.
Last week, TMZ published video of Clenney — her pants seemingly covered in blood — sitting on the floor of an apartment and speaking with police officers. (TMZ reported that the bra and pants she wore in the video appear to match the outfit she wore in a live video posted to her Instagram account on Sunday, April 3, the same day of the stabbing.) In the footage, two dogs wander around and lick her face, and her hands appear to be handcuffed behind her back. (Miami PD did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone’s request for clarification on details about her subsequent hospitalization.)
Several news outlets have reported that police were called to the apartment multiple times before the stabbing happened. (Rolling Stone has confirmed this with a source close to the situation.) The Miami Herald reported that “law enforcement sources” told them Miami police officers were called to the apartment on April 1 because of a domestic dispute. The police saw bruises on Clenney’s arms and legs, the sources told the Herald, but said no arrests were made. Miami Police would not confirm or deny this account, again citing the ongoing investigation.
Obumseli’s brother Jeffrey posted on Instagram about the stabbing, calling for justice and saying he and his family “have every reason to believe” the death was “the result of unwarranted and unprovoked violence.” He also emphasized another much-debated facet of this case: race. “Courtney is being treated differently because of her privilege as a wealthy white woman,” he claimed.
Obumseli’s death generated a torrent of polarizing reactions that dominated social media. Some users whose posts went viral expressed concern that Clenney, who is white, might “get away with” allegedly killing Obumseli, a Black man. Others dug up old tweets of Obumseli’s, where he had made disparaging comments about Black women.
Obumseli’s brother condemned the anti-Black tweets in his Instagram post. “We strongly disagree with the ignorant and repulsive tweets from my then-high school aged brother that have recently surfaced,” he wrote. “However, the tweets do not diminish our demand for a thorough investigation into Toby’s murder or negate the necessity for justice.
Paris Milan, a YouTuber whose channel focuses on Black women’s issues and who shared many of Obumseli’s old tweets, says the public leaping to Obumseli’s defense illustrates a double standard because she claims people don’t react the same way when a white man harms a Black woman. “If the roles were reversed, and this was a Black woman where her white boyfriend stabbed her to death, they wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, the police are dropping the ball because she’s a Black woman,'” says Milan, who is using her online name to avoid being doxxed. “They say, ‘Well, that’s what you get, because you shouldn’t have messed with that white man.’
Obumseli’s cousin, Christian Nwabuko, saw Obumseli’s tweets, but says they are a “distraction” from the immediate concerns surrounding his relative’s death. Nwabuko’s sister Jessica agrees. She admits the posts look bad, but says those ignorant statements don’t change what happened to him. “Just because he said what he said at 17 — that he doesn’t like Black people — he deserved to die?” she says. “It doesn’t correlate.”