One of Fresno's prolific car thieves, who was released from jail several times before he was arrested on a murder charge two years ago, killed in self-defense, his attorney said Thursday in the Fresno County Superior Court trial.
In opening statements of Tino Tufono's trial, defense attorney Antonio Alvarez said Tufono shot 25-year-old Jacob Ramirez in December 2011 after Ramirez lunged at him with a pizza cutter.
Tufono feared for his life, Alvarez said, because of Ramirez's friend had sneaked up behind Tufono. Ramirez and his friend were after drugs that Tufono carried in his pocket, Alvarez told the jury.
"Give me what you've got before I hit you between the eyes," Ramirez said before Tufono shot him, according to Alvarez.
"He felt trapped," Alvarez said.
But prosecutor Ron Wells said Tufono casually executed Ramirez, shooting him twice in the head. "Hey, check this out," Tufono said before firing his handgun, according to Wells.
"He shot him in cold blood," Wells told the jury.
If convicted of murder, Tufono, 32, faces life in prison.
The shooting happened during the early hours of Dec. 6, 2011, inside a detached garage of a home on the 1200 block of East Clinton Avenue, west of Blackstone Avenue.
Wells described the garage as a "flop house," where drug addicts and homeless people hung out.
The trial in Judge Hilary Chittick's courtroom could take weeks because many of the witnesses are reluctant to testify, Wells said. Fortunately, Fresno police detectives documented what the witnesses said at the time of the killing, he said.
Before his arrest, Tufono was considered Fresno's No. 2 most wanted auto thief. He had been released from Fresno County Jail at least seven times because of the sheriff's early-release policy to avoid overcrowding, authorities said.
His last jail release was on Nov. 28, 2011. Then a week later, he assaulted a Fresno woman inside her downtown apartment, Wells said.
Early the next day, on Dec. 6, 2011, Tufono killed Ramirez, Wells said. He then used his handgun to hit one of the witnesses in the face, he said.
And at gunpoint, he forced two women to drag Ramirez's body into a shower stall inside the garage and ordered them to leave with him, the prosecutor said.
Alvarez said Tufono did hit the man who sneaked up behind him. But the women left with Tufono voluntarily because they wanted to do drugs with him, he said.
Tufono was arrested the next day.
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