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A man accused of killing his girlfriend in January has chosen to represent himself in court after his court-appointed defense attorneys reportedly refused to file motions to dismiss his first-degree murder charge.

Kameron Leslie, 31, was arrested on May 1, nearly four months after 30-year-old Taja Whiteside was found by her son, dead in her own home in the 5800 block of Moody Sawyer Road on Jan. 11. She'd been strangled to death and had sustained blunt-force trauma to the head.

Police and her family believe she died at the hands of Leslie.

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Kameron Leslie / Photo from hcsheriff.gov

But in a 43-page, handwritten motion to dismiss the charge, Leslie claims it wasn't he who killed Whiteside — it was another man or group of men. He claims police lied during the grand jury presentment and brought up prior domestic violence charges that had been dismissed — not expunged — and prosecutors did not tell grand jurors of exculpatory evidence that, he says, would have shown he was innocent.

He also accuses prosecutors of withholding evidence from him, which he claims is a violation of his right to due process. Due process is the constitutional principle that the government cannot deprive a citizen of life or liberty without first giving them the opportunity to be heard and defend themselves.

When Whiteside's body was found just before noon on Jan. 11, her bedroom door was locked from the inside. Her vehicle and cell phone were missing, and her children told investigators they heard Whiteside and Leslie's voices fighting the night before, according to Hamilton County court records. Cell phone tower data showed Leslie had been in the area of Whiteside's home from around 10 p.m. on Jan. 10 to 4 a.m. the next day.

Her family told police there had been a history of violence between the couple, a claim that was supported by Greeneville, Tennessee, law enforcement records.

Leslie was arrested after allegedly punching Whiteside in the face and then throwing a cement block through the window of her vehicle. The criminal charges were later dropped because authorities couldn't locate Whiteside to appear in court that day, the Citizen Tribune reported. Prosecutors often dismiss domestic violence charges when victims don't appear in court.

The night before she was killed, several text messages had been exchanged between Whiteside and Leslie, court records show. The couple began to argue just before midnight, and the last text message from Whiteside's phone was sent to Leslie at 12:53 a.m. on Jan. 11. She hadn't been in contact with anyone else, investigators noted.

But Leslie argues texts showing that Whiteside left the house were left out of investigators' testimony when seeking search warrants and during grand jury proceedings.

Additionally, Leslie has moved to suppress evidence gathered from a search warrant for his Facebook profile. He claims that investigators lied to the judge and "said what he felt he needed to in order to get [a] warrant."

On Wednesday, Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz noted some procedural issues with different aspects of Leslie's motions. For example, Greenholtz noted a timing issue.

"I'm not certain the state is under obligation to provide you immediately at this moment with exculpatory evidence that they would at a trial," he said.

Ultimately, Greenholtz agreed to have a hearing on the matter.

"The initial burden is going to be on you to produce evidence in support of your claims ... you have the right to call witnesses to help establish those claims," he said.

The hearing will take place on Jan. 8.

Whiteside's death was the city's first homicide of 2019. Her family has said she was like every other woman. She loved. She laughed. She cried. She fell and got right back up.

"But at some point in life we tend to allow love to defend pain and hide the truth," her cousin Akedus Hamilton previously told the Times Free Press. "I regret just not knowing the pain and truth behind her eyes or the fact that she was scared or confused."

Contact Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.

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