Jury deliberates in Burke murder trial
by NEAL PUTNAM
Published - 04/12/17 - 03:20 PM | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thomas Burke
Thomas Burke
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Jury deliberations resumed April 12 in the murder trial of Thomas Burke, a pharmacist who is accused of killing his roommate’s boyfriend at Burke’s front door in Ocean Beach.

The eight-woman, four-man jury got the case Tuesday, April 11 at 3:47 p.m. after hearing hours of closing arguments and instructions from San Diego Superior Court Judge Melinda Lasater.

Burke, 32, testified Friday he shot Jess Matthew Robles, 34, of Pacific Beach, in self-defense after Robles sent him text messages that Burke said were threatening to him.

Verdict options as suggested by Deputy District Attorney Kyle Sutterley are first and second-degree murder.

Defense attorney Gary Gibson argued for acquittal, but the possibility of guilty verdicts of voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter has been raised.

Every seat was filled in the courtroom with friends and family of Robles on one side and Burke’s friends and family on the other.

Jurors also went to the scene Tuesday to personally examine the door and area where Robles was shot in the throat and the chest on June 22, 2016 at 11:09 p.m. at Burke’s condominium unit at 4177 Voltaire St.

Sutterley told jurors that Burke had “an obsession for Larae Clark,” his roommate and had said he was in love with her. He said they had sex once before she started dating Robles about six weeks before he was shot.

“That obsession led to murder,” said Sutterley, adding the motive is “jealousy” as “he wanted to control her dating life.”

Sutterley said Burke had “murder on his mind” throughout June and that he acted with malice. “This is not self-defense. This is murder,” he said.

Both shots were fatal and Robles died at the scene. Sutterley quoted a text message Burke had written of Robles which said “he wore out his welcome before I ever met him.”

Sutterley also cited the testimony of another former girlfriend, Lisa Scarga, who said her relationship ended with Burke in 2015. She said he twice left cupcakes for her after they broke up that she found on her car at the beach and at her door.

Scarga testified she asked Burke to leave her alone in a text message after he went to places where she frequented. The prosecutor said that behavior shows Burke was obsessed with her also.

Gibson said Robles arrived at Burke’s door after he sent him threatening text messages and that Robles’ blood/alcohol at death was .16, which he said showed he had about eight alcoholic drinks.

Burke was so concerned about the text messages that he locked a lower bedroom’s windows and changed the garage door passcode minutes before Robles and Clark showed up.

Robles waited outside in a Lyft car as Burke had banned him from entering the premises. Robles had offered his place where Clark could stay, and she came home to pack some things and get her dog, according to testimony.

Referring to the jury visit to the scene, Gibson said this: “You were in the door frame today. Did any of you stick your hand through the door frame?”

Gibson said Burke perceived that Robles was a fighter. “In his mind, he would lose any fight with Robles,” said Gibson.

After Burke shot Robles twice, he panicked, said his attorney. He left the gun on his bed with his wallet, but left with his phone and the gun’s magazine. He jumped off his balcony some 15 feet from the ground, and got a sprained ankle, he said.

“He’s not Jason Bourne. He’s a 32-year-old pharmacist with no record,” said Gibson. “A drunk guy came to his door and it cost him his life.”

Gibson said the case illustrates “the right of a home owner to use a weapon to protect himself.”

Burke remains in jail on $4 million bail.
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