by Kyle Mittan
When Arnold Granillo sat on the bench outside of courtroom 478 on Thursday afternoon, the passersby — save for the jurors in his trial — probably didn’t realize he was being tried for the murder of his girlfriend.
Granillo, who was out on $10,000 bail, was clean-cut, and wore a suit: a gray jacket and slacks, with an emerald green shirt and matching tie. He was calm as he sat on the bench, his shined shoes a shoulder width apart, his hands in his lap, touching at the finger tips. His eyes wandered, but remained mostly trained on the floor.
Thursday was the third day of a five-day trial for Granillo, who faces a second-degree murder charge in the death of girlfriend Kimberly Tsonetokoy in the early morning hours of Sept. 27, 2012. Tsonetokoy, who had been smoking on the back patio of the couple’s Adams Street home, had been hit in the mouth with a crowbar, removing several teeth and knocking her jaw loose.
She died later that day at the hospital from a skull fracture.
According to a statement from the Pima County Superior Court, Granillo’s account of the incident changed multiple times, having originally told police that an unknown suspect had entered the backyard and hit his girlfriend. Granillo then later claimed that he picked up the crowbar and threw it at Tsonetokoy, hitting her in the back of the head. He then told police that she had fallen off her chair onto the crowbar before admitting that he had hit her.
At 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Joel Feinman, Granillo’s public defender, opened his case with a speech intending to personalize Granillo, a SunTran driver, as a blue collar citizen, reacting out of emotion from a broken heart. Four days before the incident, Tsonetokoy had told Granillo she was planning to leave him.
“He’s a hardworking man, he’s worked hard all of his life,” Feinman said of his client to the jury. “Behind the veneer of that night, there was a man with a broken heart. There was a man who went crazy when he found out that his partner, that his lover, that the woman he had built a life with, was leaving.”
The first witness called to the stand following the defense’s opening statement was Amber Ramos, Tsonetokoy’s daughter. Ramos was living in the house with her own daughter at the time of the incident, and woke to Granillo pounding on her bedroom door after hitting Tsonetokoy.
Ramos, 25, told the court she has known Granillo for approximately the last decade, and referred to him as her stepdad. On Wednesday afternoon, she fought back tears as she identified Granillo in the courtroom for prosecuting attorney Lewis Brandes.
Much of Ramos’ testimony consisted of factual information, explaining to Brandes how the house was laid out. Ramos then explained the exchange between her and Granillo when he told her about Tsonetokoy’s injuries.
“He said that something happened to my mom, that somebody came through the back and must’ve hit her,” she told the prosecutor. “He just looked real scared — it was like he didn’t want to tell me.”
During his cross-examination, Feinman asked Ramos to recall the conversation her mother had with Granillo when she explained to him her plans to leave and move into a house with Ramos and her siblings.
“He kept saying, ‘What about me? What about me? Why can’t you love me?’” Ramos said, explaining that she overheard the conversation during a phone call from the passenger seat of the car her mom was driving. “She said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t love you like you want me to.’”
Granillo’s composure wasn’t the same on the afternoon of Sept. 27, 2012 as it was in the hallway of the courthouse on the third day of his trial. As a video of his interrogation showed during the trial, Granillo was nervous during detectives’ questioning, unable to remain seated for any length of time.
He often asked interrogators about the fate of his charges — which had originally been aggravated assault — but detectives could not give him definite answers. Granillo also did not seem to understand the gravity of his charge during interrogation, exclaiming, “Oh, shit” when told he had committed a felony.
Granillo became hysterical when detectives notified him that Tsonetokoy had died in the hospital as a result of her injuries. Screaming between breaths, he moved from corner to corner in the small room while detectives tried to keep him from hyperventilating.
In the courtroom, members of Tsonetokoy’s family also cried during the video.
UPDATE — FRIDAY, NOON
The trial picked back up on Friday beginning with jury instructions read by Judge Javier Chon-Lopez. Lesser charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide may be considered.
Following the jury's instructions, the state began their closing arguments. Prosecuting Attorney Lewis Brandes pushed for the second-degree murder charge, vying to rule out that Tsonetokoy's death was an accident. Brandes used the plastic-wrapped crowbar as a prop to demonstrate its weight, adding that no reasonable person could have hit someone else with it without knowing that it would cause bodily harm or death.
"He had to go and get the crowbar," Brandes said, re-explaining the scene on the morning of Sept, 27, 2012, which saw Granillo in the house cooking breakfast for Tsonetokoy. "What was he doing, cooking pancakes with the crowbar? … If you swing this at someone's head or at someone's face, how can you as a reasonable person say, 'He didn't mean to'?"
UPDATE — END OF DAY 4
Following the trial's afternoon recess, the defense gave its closing statement. Public Defender Joel Feinman, as he did when he opened his case, made an effort to personalize Granillo, beginning his statement with the video from Granillo's interrogation, starting from when detectives told him that Tsonetokoy had died, and playing through a few minutes of Granillo's crying.
"That man was crouched in the corner of an interrogation room, screaming at the top of his lungs the first time — the first time — that he heard that he had killed the woman he loved," Feinman told the jury. "They are the same man — the man who sat in front of you for the past four days, not saying a word with a blank look on his face most of the time. They are both Arnold Granillo. They are both a hardworking guy."
The remainder of Feinman's statement sought to showcase the type of relationship that Granillo had with Tsonetokoy, seemingly trying to prove that she had changed him as a person, and that he killed her as an impulsive reaction. Feinman added that it didn't excuse what Granillo had done.
"That doesn't mean that he has a license to kill," Feinman said. "It explains why he did what he did. It explains why a man who has never been in trouble before, who has worked hard all of his life, who has never been in a fight with Kim, woke up one day and hit her six to 12 times with a crowbar."
Still, Feinman urged the jury to pursue lesser charges.
In his rebuttal, Brandes reiterated his point that Granillo's actions were not an accident, and that he had to find and pick up the crowbar before using it to harm Tsonetokoy.
As of 5 p.m. on Friday, the jury had not reached a verdict. They are scheduled to reconvene on Monday at 11 a.m. Check back at The Range for updates when the case picks back up on Monday.
UPDATE — HUNG JURY
After nearly two days of deliberating, Granillo's nine-person jury failed to come to an agreement on the three charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter or negligent homicide. Judge Chon-Lopez has declared a mistrial, with a status conference set for Jan. 13 at 9 a.m.