Fresno killer's apology not accepted by victim's family

FRESNO, Calif.

Tino Tufono was one of Fresno's most prolific car thieves even before committing murder in Dec. 2011.

Tufono didn't speak in court, but he wrote a letter to the judge. His attorney says Tufono said he was sorry for the victim's family, but his actions created doubt about whether he really meant it.

A family united in grief walked out of the courtroom one last time, knowing now the man who killed Jacob Ramirez will likely die in prison.

At each of Tino Tufono's court hearings over more than two years, the family showed up, making sure Ramirez is never forgotten. And Tuesday, they got something of an apology from Tufono in the form of a letter his lawyer gave the judge. But even in apologizing, Tufono defended himself.

"Yeah, he was sorry for what happened," said his defense attorney Antonio Alvarez. "He really thought it was the influence of drugs that just clouded his judgment though he did reiterate he really truly believed he acted in self-defense in this situation."

Tufono's history of criminal activity is well documented. Between 2010 and the Ramirez murder in Dec. 2011, he was charged with nine felonies and earned the ranking of Fresno's number two auto thief. His attorney says Tufono's life of crime is rooted in a bad upbringing.

"Currently, both his parents are locked up and that's always been the case," Alvarez said. "Just growing up, he was raised by different family members because his parents were in and out of trouble, in and out of custody."

And even as the judge acknowledged his difficult childhood, Tufono again angered the Ramirez family. They tearfully stayed quiet in court, but noticed him making a one-fingered gesture in their direction -- one final blow that will also not be forgotten.

Officially, the 32-year-old Tufono will serve 69 years to life in prison and he's unlikely to ever get parole. And with the murder conviction, prosecutors dropped all the earlier auto theft cases.

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