Pharmacist sentenced to 21 years for shooting roommate’s boyfriend

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — A pharmacist who fatally shot his female roommate’s boyfriend at the door of the defendant’s Ocean Beach condominium has been convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

Thomas Francis Burke, who says he fired in self-defense, faces between six and 21 years in prison when he is sentenced May 11.

Burke testified that he shot 35-year-old Jess Robles in self-defense when the victim started to come into his home the night of June 22, 2016.

Jurors acquitted Burke of murder.

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.

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.

Sutterley said Burke jumped off a second-story balcony and ran, then called another of his roommates to say, "I just shot Jess and I’m probably going to jail."

Burke went to a couple of friends’ homes and eventually turned himself in about 7:40 the following morning.

Defense attorney Gary Gibson told the jury that Robles was drunk when he arrived at Burke’s condominium.

Larae Clark had been texting Burke all night, and Burke told her he thought Robles was "obnoxious" and "creepy," Gibson told the jury.

Gibson said Burke didn’t want a relationship with Clark because she was a drunk and had cheated on her previous boyfriend.

The attorney said Burke was "freaked out’ by the situation with Robles and armed himself when he heard a bang on the door.

"He thinks Jess is coming in to do him some damage," Gibson told the jury.

Gibson said Robles came through the door — giving life to a threat made 30 minutes earlier —  and he shot him in the neck from close range because he felt trapped. Burke shot Robles a second time and he fell backward, Gibson

When Burke fled, the first person he called was a lawyer who specializes in self-defense, but there was no answer, Gibson said. Burke made 10 calls to attorneys that morning, Gibson told the jury.

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