Clovis domestic violence case draws Smittcamp back into the role of courtroom prosecutor

Arrest in kidnap, sexual assault of woman in northeast Fresno

Police Chief Jerry Dyer and District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, center, at a news conference announcing the arrest of Joseph Ward, 35, in the kidnap of a woman and a child in northeast Fresno in June.
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Police Chief Jerry Dyer and District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, center, at a news conference announcing the arrest of Joseph Ward, 35, in the kidnap of a woman and a child in northeast Fresno in June.

It’s unusual in Fresno County to see the elected district attorney personally prosecuting a case in Fresno County Superior Court.

But District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, who has spent much of her career handling domestic violence cases, returned to the courtroom Thursday for the start of an attempted murder case.

Bernardo Madueno, 36, is charged with attempted murder, corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant, assault with a semiautomatic gun and corporal injury to a child in the May 2015 shooting of his longtime girlfriend in Clovis.

He reportedly fled the U.S. after the shooting, but was arrested in Mexico and returned to Fresno County in October 2016. He’s been in the Fresno County Jail since he was charged.

Madueno allegedly shot his then-girlfriend, who is the mother of their five children, as she tried to run from their home at Villa and Sierra avenues after a volatile confrontation.

Bernardo Madueno, 32. Clovis Police Department

The former girlfriend, who spent Thursday testifying in the jury trial, suffered gunshot wounds to her right jaw, right shoulder and breast, right jaw and right hip. She also had injuries to the left side of her face.

At the time of the shooting, their daughters ranged in age from 4 to 16. The oldest is now 20, while the youngest is 8.

Smittcamp downplayed the uniqueness of her personally taking on the case.

“When this happened in May 2015, it was just a few months after I was sworn in and I just assigned it to myself,” she said. “This is what I’ve done for more than 20 years, prosecuting domestic violence cases.”

The case

Smittcamp guided the woman through her testimony recalling what was described as growing turmoil and arguments between herself and Madueno, including an incident in March 2015 in which she called Clovis police.

“We were arguing, and he walked away and it seemed like he was going to grab something,” the ex-girlfriend told jurors Thursday afternoon. “I knew he had guns in the house, and he had knives, too. I didn’t know what he would grab.”

The woman said she called 911, but hung up the phone after he walked toward her. She said he grabbed the phone and walked into the kitchen. When police arrived a few minutes later, he came back out of the kitchen and, she said, tucked a gun into the back of his pants before going outside to talk to the officers.

“I stayed in the house,” she said. “He told me if I stepped outside, he would shoot the police and then come back inside for me.”

She described watching through a window as Madueno talked with the officers for a few minutes before they left.

About two months later, she said the violence escalated after Madueno and the two oldest daughters returned from a restaurant where they had gone to watch televised MMA matches.

As an argument between Madueno and the 14-year-old daughter intensified, the ex-girlfriend said she stepped between the two because she was afraid Madueno would hit the girl. She said Madueno then punched a hole in the living room wall and butted his head into the mantel before walking into the kitchen.

“I got scared, grabbed the phone and I was going to call 911,” she said. Then she described hearing one of her daughters screaming that Madueno had a gun, and she dialed 911 and ran out the front door.

A recording of the emergency call to Clovis police was played for jurors. In it, screams and crying of the daughters can be heard as the operator repeatedly tries to get a response.

The woman said that as she ran toward the driveway of the house, “I felt heat to my back, I knew he had hit me with a bullet. That’s the only one I felt.”

She continued running into the middle of Villa Avenue in front of the house, and said she heard more gunshots as she waved down an approaching car before blacking out.

Smittcamp showed jurors photos taken in a hospital emergency room detailing the injuries to the woman’s body.

DA’s specialty

Smittcamp said she was drawn to the Madueno case because “it was domestic violence with a gun, and that kind of became my specialty when I was practicing as a deputy DA.”

“For me, it’s almost selfish,’ she said. “I enjoy the work. I enjoy the litigation, I enjoy working with victims. … I’ve been an advocate for domestic violence victims for many years.”

It’s uncommon, but not necessarily unprecedented, for an elected district attorney to find his or her way back to the courtroom.

“When I was a young prosecutor in Madera, Ernie LiCalsi was the DA and he often prosecuted cases,” Smittcamp said. DAs in Merced and San Luis Obispo counties have also handled cases in court in recent years, she added.

Lifelong Valley resident Tim Sheehan has worked in the Valley as a reporter and editor since 1986, and has been at The Fresno Bee since 1998. He is currently The Bee’s data reporter and covers California’s high-speed rail project and other transportation issues. He grew up in Madera, has a journalism degree from Fresno State and a master’s degree in leadership studies from Fresno Pacific University.