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Accused Fresno murderer testifies, claims self-defense

Accused murderer and top Fresno auto thief Tino Tufono is fighting back in court, claiming he killed in self-defense and under the influence of meth.
February 20, 2014 7:23:52 PM PST
Accused murderer and top Fresno auto thief Tino Tufono is fighting back in court, claiming he killed in self-defense and under the influence of meth.

Tufono was the city's #2 auto thief when he killed Jacob Ramirez in Dec. 2011.

Tufono says he shot Ramirez when the other man lunged at him with a pizza cutter, and he used a gun he'd taken from a woman who attacked him earlier that day. But that's not what he told the detectives who arrested him, and he admits his natural inclination, especially around police, is to lie.

Tufono's first lie to police was to deny being at the place where Ramirez was shot and killed. He now admits he was there and that he has a tendency to lie, and not only to police.

"Sir, I've lied to other people as it suited my needs, yes," he told prosecutor Ron Wells.

Tufono took the stand in his own defense Thursday and claimed self-defense, taking several moments to look directly at jurors while answering questions.

Other witnesses say Tufono flipped out because Ramirez wouldn't share his meth with him. But Tufono says that wasn't the case at all. He says everyone in the home was using his meth, and while they did, Ramirez warned the others to watch out because he was about to rob Tufono with another man's help.

Tufono says he watched Ramirez in front of him and the other man behind him, and then Ramirez reached for a pizza cutter and came at him.

"The arm handling the knife (was) cocked back?" asked defense attorney Antonio Alvarez.

"Yeah, it was on his hand like a brass knuckles," Tufono said.

"Kind of a punching motion?" Alvarez asked.

"Yes," Tufono said.

"What did you do when you saw that?" asked Alvarez.

"I shot him," Tufono said.

Another witness says Tufono ordered everybody to the ground at that point and even asked them to cut up the body to hide the evidence. Tufono says that's not true. He says he was emotionally distraught and just wanted to leave.

"I went and grabbed a pair of shoes and I broke down," he said. "I put the gun down and I was just, I was almost in tears."

Those shoes belonged to Ramirez and investigators believe Tufono took them and taunted the victim as he left.

One item on which Tufono and other witnesses agree: They left the scene of the killing and Tufono sold the gun to get more drugs.

The trial is expected to wrap up early next week.


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