Ex-Fort Bliss soldier convicted in transgender woman's murder
By AARON MARTINEZ | The El Paso Times | Published: January 17, 2019
EL PASO, Texas (Tribune News Service) — Former Fort Bliss soldier Anthony Michael Bowden was convicted Thursday of murder in the stabbing death of a transgender woman who allegedly attempted to blackmail him.
Bowden had no reaction to the verdict; friends and family of the victim wept.
Bowden, who was an active-duty servicemember at the time of the crime, was found guilty on one count of murder in the death of Erykah Tijerina on Aug. 8, 2016, at the Rio Grande Government Apartment Complex.
Bowden was a Patriot Launching Station crewman assigned to 5th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery, 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command.
A jury of six women and six men deliberated for more than three hours before reaching the verdict.
The sentencing phase of the trial will begin Friday morning. Bowden faces life in prison on the murder charge.
Tijerina's family said they would not comment until Friday.
The trial, which began Tuesday, is being held in the 384th District Court with Judge Patrick Garcia presiding.
Tijerina, whose legal name was Eric Tijerina, identified as a transgender woman and worked as a prostitute, according to testimony.
Prosecutors said "Erykah" when referring to Tijerina, while defense lawyers used "Eric."
Defense lawyers William Ahee, Rene Flores and Rebecca Spencer Tavitas argued throughout the trial that Bowden killed Tijerina in self-defense.
The defense claimed that Tijerina was attempting to blackmail Bowden and had raped him and was trying to do so again when Bowden killed Tijerina.
Tijerina had threatened to tell military officials that Bowden had slept with a transgender woman and was her pimp, according to testimony.
“On Aug. 8, 2016, Eric threatened Anthony Michael Bowden,” Ahee said in his closing arguments. “She blackmailed him. He went to the apartment, and Eric started undressing him (Bowden). He (Tijerina) threatened him. He (Bowden) feared he was going to be raped again. He went to his car, got the chisel. Eric threatened him, and he (Bowden) had the right to defend himself.”
Defense lawyers alleged that Tijerina had used deadly force against Bowden since she knew she had HIV.
They added that Tijerina was a predator and Tijerina’s actions led to the fatal stabbing.
“Make no mistake about it; Eric was a predator — clear and simple,” Flores said. “He was a predator, and Michael never stood a chance.
State prosecutors Denise Butterworth and Elizabeth Howard claimed that Bowden has lied throughout the case.
They countered that Bowden was never raped and had the opportunity to flee from Tijerina, but he went to Tijerina’s apartment with the intent to kill Tijerina.
According to testimony, Bowden bought a chisel from a hardware store before meeting Tijerina.
After meeting with Tijerina, Bowden left the apartment to get money from his car but came back with the chisel.
“He (Bowden) wants you to think he didn’t know she was transgender, but the defense has said over and over again she was a large person,” Butterworth said in her closing arguments. “What would a heterosexual man do if he found out she was transgender? He would leave. He (Bowden) didn’t leave. He allowed her to perform oral sex on him. His story is not believable.”
She added that Bowden’s story of being raped was a lie in an effort to place blame on Tijerina.
“He solicited her on a Craigslist, met with her and had sex with her,” Butterworth said. “His story makes no sense. ... He would have left. He was not raped. He would have left. He stayed. Now, he is trying to say he was raped to pass the blame. He was a willing participant. It was not rape.”
Butterworth said evidence showed Tijerina would blackmail clients, but when Bowden killed Tijerina, it was not in self-defense.
“In his words, he says he was being blackmailed and went to buy a chisel,” Butterworth said. “There is no imminent threat when he goes back to his car to get the chisel. There was no imminent threat. For self-defense, the threat must be imminent. When he goes back to his car, the threat is over.”
She concluded: “He went back to his car to get the chisel because he intended to kill her. This is not self-defense. The argument of self-defense is ridiculous.”