Ex-Fort Bliss soldier killed transgender woman after she tried to rape him, defense claims
By AARON MARTINEZ | The El Paso Times | Published: January 17, 2019
EL PASO, Texas (Tribune News Service) — A former Fort Bliss soldier admitted killing a transgender prostitute, who he said attempted to blackmail and rape him, according to testimony.
Anthony Michael Bowden, who was an active-duty soldier at the time of the crime, faces one count of murder in the death of Erykah Tijerina on Aug. 8, 2016. 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.
The murder trial began Tuesday in the 384th District Court with Judge Patrick Garcia presiding.
Bowden could get life in prison if convicted of murder.
Tijerina, whose legal name was Eric Tijerina, identified as a transgender woman.
Prosecutors said "Erykah" when referring to Tijerina, while defense lawyers used "Eric."
Tijerina was found dead in her apartment by her stepfather Aug. 8, 2016, at the Rio Grande Government Apartment Complex.
According to opening statements, Tijerina allegedly was a prostitute who met Bowden after he contacted Tijerina through an ad posted on the classifieds website Craigslist.
Bowden allegedly meet with Tijerina at an apartment about a month before Tijerina’s death.
The two engaged in sexual activities, during which Bowden discovered that Tijerina was a man, according to prosecutors and defense lawyers.
Bowden claimed in one of the statements he gave to police that he then froze and was raped by Tijerina.
He then claimed that he had been “catfished” by Tijerina. Catfished is when a person is lured into a relationship by a fictional online persona.
Bowden alleged that Tijerina attempted to blackmail him by threatening to tell Fort Bliss officials that he had sex with a transgender prostitute, defense lawyers claimed.
Defense lawyers William Ahee, Rebecca Spencer Tavitas and Rene Flores admitted that Bowden killed Tijerina with a chisel but said he did so in self-defense.
“The evidence presented in this trial will demonstrate that Anthony Michael Bowden did stab Eric Tijerina,” Ahee said in his opening statement. “The evidence will demonstrate that Eric Tijerina died due to those wounds. The evidence will also show why this happened: the chain of events set in motion by Eric Tijerina that led to Eric’s own death.”
He claimed that Eric Tijerina had a history of blackmailing men.
“Eric Tijerina was a prostitute with a reputation of knowingly transmitting HIV,” Ahee said. “Eric Tijerina blackmailed men that he found online. Eric was large and violent.”
Bowden was allegedly raped by Tijerina a month before Tijerina was killed, Ahee said.
“A month prior to his death, Bowden was assaulted by Eric,” Ahee said. “At that time, Eric knew he had HIV and exposed Michael (Bowden) to HIV. Michael told this to police. … He (Tijerina) knew the consequences or potential consequences for Michael: a lifelong condition that could potentially lead to death.”
Ahee added Tijerina attempted to blackmail Bowden for $200.
“A month after the prior assault, Michael was blackmailed by Eric,” Ahee said. “Prior to this blackmail attempt, Michael did not try to make contact with Eric. Michael did not want contact with Eric. You (jurors) will hear that Eric threatened to contact the military. He threatened to say that Michael was pimping him out, despite being a prostitute for nearly two decades.”
He continued: “He threatened him that he was going to tell the military. The military was Michael’s life.”
Bowden allegedly bought the chisel from a hardware store before going to Tijerina’s apartment the day she was killed, prosecutors and defense lawyers said.
Ahee said that Bowden agreed to meet with Tijerina, who took off Bowden’s shirt in an alleged attempt to rape him. Bowden then told Tijerina that he had the money in his car and went to get it. Bowden returned with the chisel.
“As Michael told police, he thought he was about to be raped,” Ahee said. “Michael first decides not to bring the chisel into the apartment. Despite the previous assault, Michael chooses to leave the chisel in his car. He goes upstairs to confront his assaulter, who is threatening him empty handed. When he gets to the room, Eric begins to undress Michael. … Michael tells him the money is in his car, goes to the car and gets the chisel. … In a frenzy, Michael stabs him until the threat is over.”
State prosecutors Denise Butterworth and Elizabeth Howard argued in their opening statements that Bowden was not acting in self-defense and lied to police.
“After denying being there the night of Erykah’s death, in a second statement he gave to police, he admits he was there and went to a hardware store to buy the chisel,” Butterworth said. “He claims that Erykah was blackmailing him and was going to tell military officials he was a prostitute.”
Butterworth countered Bowden and his defense lawyers' claims of what happened the night Tijerina was killed.
“He (Bowden) goes upstairs, takes off his shirt, and he then goes downstairs, puts his shirt back on and grabs the chisel,” Butterworth said. “He goes back and stabs her multiple times. He knows she is dead. He admits to detectives that he then grabs her phone and gets rid of it because he knew detectives could connect him to her.”
The evidence will show that Bowden went to Tijerina’s apartment with the intent to kill Tijerina, Butterworth said.
“In order to have a legally valid self-defense claim, the threat must be imminent,” Butterworth said. “Receipts show he bought the chisel minutes before the murder occurred. The chisel is found in the defendant’s car. ... That chisel has blood that is consistent with our victim’s blood. During the second interview when he is explaining to detectives that he did this, he also produces some gloves he was wearing at the time of this murder.”
She added, “So he is prepared enough to commit the murder that he is putting on gloves before the murder is committed. This is an important fact when the defense wants to argue self-defense.”
Butterworth said that stabbing someone who is blackmailing you is not self-defense when no imminent physical threat exists.
“We are confident that our presentation of the evidence will show that we have exceeded our burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt and that we prove every single element of murder,” Butterworth said. “We ask that you (jurors) pay close attention to this defense’s argument by understanding the laws of self-defense — that it must be imminent, and you cannot take a deadly weapon to a confrontation.”
She concluded: “The law of self-defense explains that if I have beef with someone and I know I have a problem with someone, I cannot go confront them with a deadly weapon and then when there is a problem say I had to use my deadly weapon in self-defense. That is not how the law of self-defense works.”
The testimony continued Tuesday afternoon with more witnesses expected to be called to the stand Wednesday.