ARCHDALE, N.C. - A North Carolina man is working through many emotions following a stabbing attack on his daughter.
“I sat and watched my daughter cry in pain, and I couldn’t do anything to help her.”
That helpless feeling is one Johnathan Lambert has been experiencing for nearly a month since his daughter was brutally attacked.
On March 31, Johnathan’s 19-year old daughter Celestial was stabbed six times in the parking lot of a Taco Bell in Archdale.
Police said Tyvonne Upshur, 41, allegedly used his car to try to run over Celestial and her family, including her mother and sisters, as they left the restaurant. The car managed to run over Celestial’s foot before smashing into a power pole.
Johnathan Lambert said he then saw Upshur sprint out of the car and begin stabbing his daughter in the neck and back.
“One of the stab wounds caused her to have a spinal cord injury, so it’s going to take her a while to recover from that," he said.
Meeting the Lamberts
Upshur had known the Lamberts prior to the March attack. He had met them a year before and had become a regular member at their Archdale church.
Johnathan Lambert described himself and his family as strong evangelists on a mission to share the word of God with as many people as they can.
They spend much of their time together leading worship services at area churches and singing at nursing homes.
Johnathan said Upshur began attending their church after speaking with two women inside a Walmart.
“He had said he had been looking for a new church. That’s actually how he started attending our church,” he said.
Upshur is said to have visited “just about every function” the church put on. This included fellowship dinners, worship services and church grounds workdays.
While he was heavily active in attendance, Johnathan explained that Upshur often made people uneasy.
“I can say the man had some strange things,” he said. “A lot of people felt like he made them uneasy, especially the lady folks - my daughter in particular.”
Celestial was 18 years old when she met Upshur. Many have described her as having an infectious smile, a welcoming personality and a singing voice that could melt the soul of any hardened person.
It was those qualities that drew Upshur to her, but Johnathan said it was Upshur's madness that drove him to more disturbing behavior.
“He did make several attempts to express his desire toward her. She, of course, ignored it and used every opportunity to let him know that. He had actually sent my daughter flowers asking to date her... she sent him a letter saying that she was not interested... he was old enough to be her father," he said.
For Upshur, that was not enough. Family friends said that in his mind, Upshur and Celestial were meant to be together.
Before the attack, Johnathan and his family led worship at a nursing home. He said Upshur was in attendance and even spoke to him afterwards. The two talked about Johnathan’s recent mission trip.
“He said, 'How was the service?' And I said, 'It was good,'” he said. “He said, 'I’m glad to see everyone made it home safe.'”
Johnathan said Upshur would attack them with intent to kill his daughter just minutes after the exchange.
'Lord God save his soul!'
“Before I could get over to where he was, he had stabbed her six times,” Johnathan said. “It was obvious his intent was to get rid of her.”
Johnathan rushed to pull Upshur off his daughter, who was bleeding from multiple stab wounds.
He called Upshur the devil as the man struggled to get away.
“Someone in their right mind is not going to do what this man done,” he said.
Johnathan said he heard Celestial's voice in the chaos, saying “Lord God, save his soul.”
Celestial thought she was dying and told her parents she loved them, Johnathan said.
“And then she said ‘I love you Jesus, I’m ready Lord. I’m ready,’” Johnathan said.
But Johnathan wasn't ready to let go of his daughter.
“I said, 'God’s not done with you yet. You’ve got more souls to win,'” he said.
Emergency crews arrived on the scene and rushed Celestial to the hospital. She immediately went into surgery where doctors worked to close up her wounds.
Doctors said Celestial told them she couldn’t die "knowing that this man would go to Hell for what he was doing to me.”
Johnathan said those words made him realize his daughter was blessed.
“When you hear that come from someone, the heart of a young adult is more concerned for the person who committed the crime against them... you realize that they get it. They understand God’s grace,” he said.
Celestial survived the surgery and is expected to recover from the multiple stab wounds she received. Her father said she will soon enter rehab, but that it could take a year for her to fully recover.
In that time, Johnathan said he’ll be on his own journey.
“Do I think I’m the person to go win this man, or try and save this man? I’m not there yet. I hate to confess this... I don’t think I’m there yet,” he said.