Editor’s note: This story is about a case of domestic violence. If you or someone you know needs help, the Florida Partnership to End Domestic Violence can be reached at 1-800-500-1119 or via TDD at 800-621-4202. Find additional resources at the end of this story.
TAMPA, Fla. — A few weeks before Halloween, Tamika Lorde made a desperate plea for protection from her ex-boyfriend.
Lorde had tried to make her relationship with Trent Diggs work even after he was jailed for battering her, she wrote in a domestic violence petition filed in Hillsborough County on Oct. 12. But he didn’t change, continuing to physically and emotionally abuse her, Lorde wrote.
Now the 30-year-old mother of three wanted to move on, but Diggs wouldn’t leave her alone.
“I am scared that he is going to hurt or kill me,” she wrote.
A Tampa judge granted the petition, ordering Diggs to stay away from Lorde and her apartment. But that didn’t stop him from doing what Lorde feared, authorities say.
On Dec. 8 or 9, Diggs returned to Lorde’s Thonotosassa apartment and stabbed her to death, then stole her car and fled the state, prosecutors. Diggs was stopped in New Mexico and arrested on Dec. 11.
Last week, a grand jury indicted Diggs, 29, on a first-degree murder charge in Lorde’s death.
“My daughter had a very big heart and this dude had her so brainwashed,” said Lorde’s mother, Mattie Jordan LaPorte. “The same person she thought she was so deeply in love with, that’s the one who took her life.”
Court documents outline the increasing fear that Lorde had about Diggs and the evidence that led to his indictment.
‘I am scared for my life’
The October petition was the second of two that Lorde had filed against Diggs.
In the first, filed on Aug. 21, she wrote that she’d known Diggs since November 2020 and that he was now her ex-boyfriend. She wrote that he’d been previously arrested for committing domestic violence against her, but the charges were dropped “upon my request.”
In that case, records show, Diggs grabbed Lorde by the shirt and scratched her face during an argument. The couple had been living together for a few months.
A couple of days before Lorde filed the August petition, the two got into a heated argument that turned physical after Diggs tried to go through her phone, according to the petition. He took the phone and some of her belongings and left. Lorde wrote that Diggs stalked her Facebook account and fought with her when he got mad. She said the Department of Children and Families took her children as a result of the abuse.
“I am scared for my life,” she wrote.
A judge granted a temporary injunction, but the case was dismissed after Lorde didn’t attend a hearing.
Less than two months later, she was back to file the second petition. In that document, she appears to reference the fact she didn’t show up to the hearing two months earlier.
“I know I should have come the first time, he kept me from coming to court,” she wrote.
Lorde wrote that she’d found out she was pregnant and “gave it another try,” but she lost the baby and Diggs didn’t change. Instead, she said, he got worse.
The morning that she filed the second petition, she wrote, Diggs took her phone and car keys and hit her with a car door. Two weeks earlier, she wrote, Diggs “tazed me.” A week before that, she wrote, he took her keys and locked her out of her house. She said he also kicked her, spit on her and pushed her through a wall.
A judge granted a one-year restraining order requiring Diggs to stay away from Lorde.
Public Facebook posts on Lorde’s page in the days leading up to her death reflect a woman excited about how 2021 was ending. Her employer, a health and human services provider, had offered her a new position. She posted a meme about being single and able to do what she wanted.
LaPorte, Lorde’s mother, said her daughter was doing nails on the weekends and was about to open her own shop. She described Lorde as a loving, protective mother of her children. The youngest will be 2 in May. The other two are 7 and 11.
The last time someone spoke to Lorde was a Dec. 8 phone call.
During the call, Lorde could be overheard arguing with Diggs, records say. The next day, the witness wasn’t able to reach Lorde. The day after that, the witness drove by Lorde’s apartment on Goldenrod Road in Thonotosassa apartment and noticed her Chevrolet Cruze was gone.
Hillsborough deputies were dispatched to the home that day after LaPorte opened a window of her daughter’s apartment and saw bloody footprints on the floor.
An arrest report and a motion filed by prosecutors seeking to keep Diggs in jail pending trial detail what investigators say happened after that.
Deputies who forced their way into Lorde’s apartment found her body and two knives with broken handles. One of the blades was still in her neck. An autopsy showed she’d been stabbed at least 13 times.
Neighbors told detectives they’d heard a loud argument earlier in the week. One said she saw Diggs standing outside of Lorde’s apartment as the two argued on Dec. 8, a Wednesday, or Dec. 9.
After detectives entered the car into a stolen vehicle database and began tracking it using its OnStar system, Diggs was stopped by New Mexico state police on Dec. 11 and arrested.
While in custody, Diggs told a police officer he’d been having relationship problems with his girlfriend, the report says.
“Mr. Diggs then told me, ‘S—t went down Wednesday morning’,” the officer wrote in a report. The officer reported that Diggs told him, “On the way out here, I made peace with god.”
Investigators noted Diggs had fresh cuts on his right hand, blood on his shoes, and the soles had a distinctive pattern that matched bloody shoeprints in Lorde’s apartment. They found apparent blood on the Chevy’s front seat and gear shift. Lorde’s purse was in the car.
The evidence in the apartment appears to show that Lorde moved throughout the home after being stabbed and that Diggs followed her, making “a conscious effort” to continue to stab her, the arrest report says. That showed he killed her from a “premeditated design.”
Diggs was booked into the Hillsborough County jail on Tuesday and was being held without bail. His arraignment and a pre-trial detention hearing are set for later this month.
In mid-December, LaPorte posted on Facebook about her daughter’s death. She urged people in abusive relationships to seek help.
“If a man or woman is hitting on you don’t give them a chance to apologize cuz it will happen again,” she wrote. “The hardest thing I had to ever do in my life is to tell my three grandkids their mother is dead.”
Power and control
The dynamic of escalating abuse and fear described in Lorde’s petitions is common in relationships marked by domestic violence, said Lariana Forsythe, CEO of Pinellas County’s domestic violence agency Community Action Stops Abuse, or CASA.
Statistics show that domestic violence survivors go back to their abusers an average of seven times, that abusers often try to keep survivors from leaving the relationship, and that the period when a survivor decides to leave is typically the most dangerous for them, Forsythe said. Violence also tends to escalate when a woman is pregnant.
A restraining order is a useful tool, but it’s “only a piece of paper at the end of the day,” Forsythe said.
“For her abuser, it was about power and control,” she said.
Forsythe noted that In the second petition, Lorde wrote that she didn’t have anywhere to go because she was scared to go home. She pointed out that shelters like CASA’s are only one piece of a wider array of services that include other housing programs, victim compensation and mental health and legal support. The services are free and confidential and can be accessed by calling the state or local support hotlines.
“If they’re scared, if they’re in a domestic violence situation, call and try and figure out what resources are available that can help them develop a safe plan to extricate themselves and their children from a dangerous situation,” Forsythe said.
Domestic violence warning signs
— Abuser isolates victim from friends or family.
— Victim is encouraged or forced to stop participating in activities important to them.
— Abuser controls finances or puts victim on an allowance, asks for explanations of spending.
— Victim is blamed for their feelings, yelled at or made to feel “small.”
— Abuser criticizes and controls victim’s appearance, including what they can wear.
— Abuser abandons victim in places they don’t know.
— Abuser keeps victim from eating, sleeping or getting medical care.
— Abuser throws or punches things around victim.