MARTINEZ -- A 33-year-old Richmond woman was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in state prison for fatally stabbing her husband's girlfriend in a Richmond park last year.
Originally charged with murder, Crystal Ladonna Birden took a plea deal earlier this month and pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter with use of a knife for killing 24-year-old Oakland resident Tiye Rebecca Freeman on Feb. 7, 2012.
Freeman, the mother of a 4-year-old boy, aspired to start a career in fashion or cosmetology. Her mother, Carmelita Taylor, said every member of her family has been struggling through great pain since Freeman's death.
"It just hurts so bad, I can't even explain," Taylor said.
Birden was separated from her husband James Hollaway when Hollaway, who has a history of domestic violence against Birden, brought Freeman over to the home Birden shared with her four young children, prosecutors said.
The two women fought at the residence before agreeing to continue their fight that night at a park on Sixth Street in Richmond. Hollaway drove Birden to the fight.
"Two women were fighting over an abusive, cheating husband, and now one is dead and the other's life is ruined," deputy district attorney Bill Murphy said. "He was playing both of them."
During the altercation, Birden pulled out a steak knife that she had been hiding up her sleeve and fatally stabbed Freeman.
"She didn't have to kill my daughter. She didn't need to bring a weapon with her," Taylor said. "My daughter did not deserve that."
The plea offer was driven by accounts that Freeman charged at Birden before she was stabbed, Murphy said.
"Ms. Birden had an extremely strong self-defense case, but the stakes were too high and ultimately she wanted the assurance of being able to go back to her family one day," said Birden's attorney, deputy public defender K.C. Donovan. "She is sorry for all the pain that has come from that day."
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.