A four-time felon from Woodbridge was convicted this week of fatally stabbing his friend in the throat after an argument and fight early this year.

A Prince William County Circuit Court jury recommended a life sentence for Craig A. Richardson, 34, who worked for an agency for temporary laborers. After listening to a little more than a day's testimony and deliberating for nearly four hours Tuesday, a jury of seven men and five women found Richardson guilty of first-degree murder in the slaying of Shawn Williams, 34, a cook.

Richardson is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 6 by Circuit Court Judge Richard B. Potter.

Richardson looked stone-faced as the court clerk read the verdict Tuesday. Williams's former girlfriend, Kimberly Turpin, with whom he had two children, lowered her head, wiped her eyes and smiled.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Richard A. Conway said that tension between the two friends gradually escalated the night of Jan. 13 and boiled over into the next morning after Richardson visited Williams's home in Lake Ridge to drink beer and hang out.

On Jan. 14, Richardson, Williams and Christina Bradley, a relative of Turpin's, drove to a nearby gas station to buy cigarettes. When they returned to Williams's townhouse, Williams told Richardson to leave.

Williams tried closing the door, but Richardson refused to leave and the two began throwing punches, Conway said. Richardson then grabbed a six-inch switchblade out of his pocket and plunged the blade into Williams's throat.

Richardson then fled, threw the knife in a dumpster in the District and took a bus to New Jersey, where his mother lives, Conway said, citing a police detective's report of an interview Richardson gave police when he turned himself in four days after the slaying.

Richardson testified that he stabbed Williams in self-defense and claimed that Williams began punching him when they returned from buying cigarettes. He said Williams was angry at him and threatened him because he told Bradley that Williams would be unable to repay a loan he apparently owed her.

Richardson said that when they were fighting in the doorway, a shiny object that he thought was a knife fell on the ground, prompting him to take out his knife to get Williams to "back off." He testified that he didn't realize he had killed Williams.

"I wasn't thinking, I was just reacting . . . I feared for my life," Richardson testified. He said he left the scene because he panicked.

Conway told jurors they should question Richardson's "fictitious" account, because Richardson, who has been convicted on drugs, weapons and terrorism charges, has little credibility. Conway said the self-defense argument should be rejected out of hand and didn't have the required elements of what the state considers self-defense.

"He didn't retreat, he did not make a good faith effort to leave, and he did not make it known that he wanted it to end," Conway said.

He said Williams was obviously the only victim: His blood was everywhere and he had wounds on his left arm, whereas Richardson suffered no injuries.

At the end of Tuesday's hearing, Turpin stood outside the courthouse and told reporters she was "very elated" at decision by the jury, whose forewoman happened to be county School Board Chairman Lucy S. Beauchamp (At Large).