Pharmacist claims he shot roommate's boyfriend in self-defense

Posted at 5:44 PM, Apr 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-06 20:44:33-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A pharmacist testified Thursday that he shot his female roommate's boyfriend at the door of his Ocean Beach condominium because he was afraid the victim was going to come inside and make good on his threats to hurt him.

Thomas Francis Burke, 33, is charged with murder in the June 22, 2016, death of 35-year-old Jess Robles.

Burke claims he shot the victim in self-defense.

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A tearful defendant testified that he was armed when he heard a bang on his door just after 11 p.m.

Burke said the door flew open and he saw Robles standing in the doorway, three feet away.

"I saw rage in his eyes," the defendant testified. "I saw him going down like he was going to tackle me. I thought he was there to damage me or harm me."

Burke, who said he was standing on a landing, testified that he took his gun out of his front pocket, pointed it at Robles, and shot him twice.

"I didn't know I hit him until I saw him fall backward," the defendant testified.

After the shooting, Burke said he jumped from a second-story area and ran off, then started calling defense attorneys, his mother and friends.

He turned himself in hours later.

Deputy District Attorney Kyle Sutterley said in his opening statement that one of Burke's roommates, Larae Clark, started dating the victim a couple of months before he was killed.

Burke and Clark grew up in New Jersey and Burke harbored romantic and sexual feelings for her, the prosecutor told jurors.

The defendant's jealousy began to consume him and a few days before the murder, he wrote to Clark, telling her, "I think I'll always be attracted to you," Sutterley said.

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On his computer, Burke wrote, "I can't take her going out with other people," the prosecutor said. Burke also called Robles derogatory names and an hour before the murder wrote, "I hate him," according to Sutterley.

The prosecutor said Robles -- who was out with Clark the night he was killed -- read some of Burke's text messages to her and responded, "Sounds like you have a lot to say behind my back. Hope you can back it up!"

A Lyft driver dropped Clark and Robles at the condo about 11 p.m., and she went inside, where she got into an argument with Burke, Sutterley said.

Robles decided to check on Clark when she was gone longer than anticipated and knocked on the condo door, he said.

Burke opened the door and shot Robles once in the chest and once in the throat and said, "He's dead," according to the prosecutor.

After the shooting, Burke called another of his roommates to say, "I just shot Jess and I'm probably going to jail."

The defendant will continue his testimony Friday.