D.C. woman found guilty of fatally stabbing boyfriend in ‘jealous rage’

A Southeast Washington woman was found guilty Friday of her boyfriend’s murder, ending a trial in which she was accused of attacking him in a jealous rage while her attorney argued that she acted in self-defense.

Dominique Bassil, 26, burst into loud sobs after the forewoman read the verdict: guilty of second-degree murder while armed in the 2011 stabbing death of Vance Harris II.

During the week-long trial, Bassil’s attorney argued that her client was defending herself when she grabbed an eight-inch butcher knife and plunged it three times into the 6-foot-8-inch Harris, who weighed 250 pounds.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Jackson said that after a three-year, off-and-on relationship, Bassil became frustrated that Harris, 28, continued to date other women.

“She went into a jealous rage because he wouldn’t be the man she wanted him to be,” Jackson told the jury in D.C. Superior Court.


Vance Harris, left, and his then girlfriend Dominique Bassil pose for a portrait in this undated handout image. Dominique Basil was convicted of second degree murder in Vance Harris's death on November 9, 2012. (U.S. Attorneys Office)

Jackson said that in the early morning of Aug. 13, 2011, after the couple had attended a mutual friend’s wedding, Bassil became outraged after she watched Harris dancing with other people at the reception and refused to leave when she was ready.

When they returned to Bassil’s apartment in the 3900 block of 13th Street SE, Jackson said, Bassil became enraged, struck Harris in the head with a boot, and then stabbed him.

Bassil took the stand during the trial, tearfully recalling how Harris had struck her once in her arm years earlier. On the night he was killed, she testified, she was afraid because Harris was angry and drunk after the reception.

Jackson argued that Bassil, not Harris, was the aggressor. “This isn’t self-defense. This is straight-up murder,” Jackson said during her closing arguments.

Several of Harris’ former girlfriends testified during the trial that Harris never hit them. No restraining order or other court records indicated that Bassil had any prior physical altercations with Harris.

Basil knew Harris dated other women when they met, Jackson said; he even briefly married another woman as they continued their relationship. Bassil stood by Harris, Jackson said, hoping he would become devoted to her.

“She wanted him to change, to make him into the man she wanted him to be. But Vance never changed,” Jackson argued. “She changed.”

Bassil, who was released from jail weeks after the killing when a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled that she was not a threat, was ordered back to jail until her sentencing, which is scheduled for Jan. 18. She faces a maximum of 40 years in prison.

“What about my baby?” Bassil cried out as marshals began escorting her out of the courtroom. Judge Robert E. Morin responded that she should have made provisions earlier for the care of her child, a 7-year-old girl.

Bassil’s family sat quietly in the courtroom as the verdict was read.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of intern Chandra Levy.
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