A prolific car thief's contention that he killed a man in self-defense two years ago inside a Fresno flop house took a hit Friday when a witness testified that the victim was sitting in a chair when he was fatally shot.
Tino Tufono, who is on trial for killing 25-year-old Jacob Ramirez, also wanted to cut up the victim's body, but couldn't find a sharp knife, Gina Gama, 28, testified in Fresno County Superior Court.
In addition, Tufono wanted to burn Ramirez's body, but didn't, she said.
Tufono hadn't slept and was hungry, Gama said. He also talked obsessively about getting "tools" so he could rescue some kids that he believed were locked up in an abandoned, boarded up home, she said.
"He was not in the right state of mind," Gama told the jury.
On the second day of Tufono's trial, Gama gave a sketchy account of what happened to Ramirez on Dec. 6, 2011 inside a detached garage on Clinton Avenue, just west of Blackstone Avenue -- largely because she said she was high on crystal methamphetamines when the killing happened.
She also told the jury that she was still traumatized by the killing.
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.
If convicted, he faces life in prison.
In opening statements Thursday, defense attorney Antonio Alvarez told the jury that Tufono shot Ramirez after Ramirez lunged at him with a pizza cutter. Tufono feared for his life, Alvarez said, because a friend of Ramirez had sneaked up behind Tufono.
Ramirez and his friend were after drugs that Tufono carried in his pocket, Alvarez told the jury. "He felt trapped," Alvarez said.
Friday, Gama testified in Judge Hilary Chittick's courtroom while wearing a green jail jumpsuit and shackles. She is being held in the Fresno County Jail on a drug charge and possession of stolen property, jail records show.
She told the jury she could not recall details because she and several others had been smoking crystal methamphetamines inside the detached garage -- which prosecutor Ron Wells described as a flophouse.
During the early hours of Dec. 6, 2011, Gama recalled she lying on a floor mattress when she heard gunfire. She testified that she didn't see Tufono shoot Ramirez, but she saw Tufono holding a handgun seconds after Ramirez was shot.
Gama said she didn't know why Tufono shot Ramirez, but she had told Fresno police detective Jennifer Federico in a tape-recorded interview that Ramirez "wanted to smoke dope" with others inside the garage, just not with Tufono. She also told the detective that she recalled hearing Tufono say, "You don't have to (share the drugs) ... it's going to be mine anyways."
When Gama couldn't recall making those statements, Wells played her tape-recorded statement to refresh her memory.
Gama testified that she knew something was wrong with Tufono because right after the shooting, he asked her why she she was on the ground.
"You told me to get on the floor," she said she told Tufono.
Afterwards, she and another woman helped drag Ramirez's body to a shower stall. Gama testified that the other woman took off Ramirez's clothes so they could be burned.
Wells reminded Gama that she told police that Tufono took Ramirez's shoes and put them on, saying "You won't need these any more." But Gama said she didn't recall making that statement.
She did recall that Tufono kept saying he wanted tools so he could rescue the kids that he thought were in an abandoned home. But once Tufono started coming down from his high, Gama said Tufono confessed.
"He was sorry for what he had done," she told the jury. "He knows he (screwed up). He wanted to kill himself."
Tufono was arrested the next day.
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