Crime

Was it jealousy or self-defense that led to stabbing death of Fresno man? Jury will decide

Eric Kenneth Smith is being tried for murder in the stabbing death of 23-year-old Anthony Romero in May 2018.
Eric Kenneth Smith is being tried for murder in the stabbing death of 23-year-old Anthony Romero in May 2018.

Armando Romero had just dropped his son, Anthony, off at a home in Tarpey Village when his cell phone rang. It was Anthony. He forgot his backpack and asked his dad to drop it off.

The elder Romero agreed and returned a few minutes later. As he drove up, he saw his son’s former friend Eric Kenneth Smith, 35, nervously pacing outside. Something was wrong. Romero nervously asked what happened.

“He (Smith) said, ‘I stabbed him. I had to,’” Romero testified in Fresno County Superior Court on Tuesday.

When Romero went inside he found his son’s crumpled body on the floor, blood oozing from his lifeless body.

“It was like something out of a horror movie,” he said.

Smith is on trial for the murder of Anthony Romero, who was 23 and a budding Fresno rapper. Police say Romero was stabbed twice by Smith on May 26, 2018 after a confrontation inside the home of Romero’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, Lauren Means.

The three of them had all been friends at one time, but the relationship between the two men cooled after Romero began dating Means, a longtime friend of Smith’s.

Prosecutor: Meth a factor

Prosecutor Elana Smith said the conflict between the three was made worse by their regular use of methamphetamine.

“With methamphetamine comes chaos, lies and violence,” she said during her opening statements Monday.

Smith said the defendant had romantic feelings for Means and wanted Romero out of the picture. Smith’s defense attorney, Tony Capozzi, said this case isn’t about jealousy – it’s about self-defense.

Capozzi said that when Romero showed up to Means’ home late that afternoon, he was angry that Smith was there. And after pushing his way through the front door, he confronted Smith who was also attacked by Romero’s dog.

Capozzi showed the jury several photos of scratches and bloody wounds on Smith’s body.

Means, the prosecution’s key witness, provided few answers as to how Romero was stabbed or what led up to the confrontation. She did not see the fight or Romero being stabbed.

Means testified that she was inside her home visiting with Smith when Romero began knocking on the door, calling for her to come outside and talk. Means said she did not want to, but relented and opened the door for Romero. She said he rushed passed her and entered her home to find Smith.

Although Means told detectives during the investigation that she saw Romero take a swing at Smith, on Tuesday she denied saying that. She did admit to seeing Romero push Smith and Smith push back as they moved into the kitchen.

“I yelled, ‘Hey.’ But I didn’t see what happened after that,” she testified.

What happened in the kitchen?

Means also testified that she didn’t hear them yelling or fighting. She began walking down the hallway towards her children’s bedroom when she realized everything was quiet .

She returned to the kitchen a short time later and found Romero on the floor bleeding. She made a frantic call to 911, urging them to hurry.

Police say Romero was stabbed twice, once in the left side of the body and once in the chest area. Detectives found the murder weapon, a knife with a long blade, on a shelf in the garage.

Several family members cried when they saw the knife being shown to the jury. It was secured inside a cardboard box.

“It is heartbreaking to have to relive all this pain,” said Romero’s mother, Maria Carrion. “It is so hard.”

Carrion had to leave the courtroom on Monday because she became overwhelmed with emotion.

“My son wanted to be a rapper,” she said. “He was very talented, and now he is gone.”

Smith’s trial continues in Judge Jonathan Skiles courtroom.

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