ARCHDALE — It’s been almost two years since a young Archdale woman was nearly stabbed to death in a Taco Bell parking lot, and she’s still traumatized by it.
Last week, though, in a Randolph County courtroom, Celestial Lambert Ellis reclaimed part of her shattered life as she watched the man who attacked her plead guilty, resulting in a prison sentence that should put him out of sight — and hopefully out of mind — for many years to come.
“It was a little bit nerve-racking seeing him again, but I wasn’t scared,” Ellis said. “I had a perfect peace, and I’m thankful I won’t have to worry about seeing him again for a long time.”
Tyvonne Quantaine Upshur, 42, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted first-degree murder and several counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. Under the plea deal, he was sentenced to 18½ to 25 years in prison.
Ellis and her family members, who were with her the night of the stabbing, decided not to go to trial so they wouldn’t have to relive the horrific events of that night. They were satisfied with the length of Upshur’s sentence, said Ellis’ father, Jonathan Lambert.
“I don’t think total satisfaction could be given to me unless I knew he’d never get out of prison again, but I’m fairly comfortable with this,” he said.
The assault occurred around 10 p.m. on March 31, 2019, as Ellis and her family were exiting the Taco Bell in Archdale. As they walked to their car, an SUV driven by Upshur careened wildly through the parking lot, sending the family scattering to avoid being plowed over. The vehicle ran over the young woman’s foot, but it could’ve killed her had her friend Zach Ellis — who was with the family that night and whom Celestial has since married — not pushed her out of the way just in time.
Meanwhile, after the vehicle slammed into a light pole, Upshur sprang from the car and charged at Celestial with a 12-inch knife. He stabbed her six times — four times in the lower neck, twice in the upper back — before Jonathan Lambert and Zach Ellis could wrestle him to the ground.
According to Celestial and her family, Upshur was a fellow church member who had become obsessed with Celestial and was angry because she’d refused to date him. During the attack, he yelled that if he couldn’t have her, no one would.
Celestial, who was 19 at the time, spent more than a month in the hospital recovering from her injuries. Last week in court, she testified about the extent of those injuries, which included spinal cord damage and a punctured lung.
She also spoke of the psychological damage she has suffered.
“Most people call it PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but I just call it the aftermath of something bad happening,” Celestial says. “Loud noises, anything that resembles an engine revving, or anytime I see headlights coming toward me, I have to keep myself from having a panic attack.”
Other family members spoke in court, too. Jonathan Lambert explained that the sound of a racing engine terrifies not only Celestial but his other three children, as well. They also refuse to eat at that Taco Bell anymore, though it was once a popular family destination.
Lambert, a Christian evangelist, also told the judge he prays for Upshur.
“It was difficult to look into the eyes of the man that tried to murder my daughter, but I do pray for this man because he still has a soul,” Lambert said. “I pray that somehow he could find salvation and true delivery. But I’m thankful that we don’t have to worry about seeing him again for quite a while.”
Zach Ellis agreed.
“We don’t harbor bitterness toward the man or wish him ill, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable with him in the same state as me,” he said. “We just want to go on now and live our lives without fear and heal from this experience.”