A Stanislaus County criminal grand jury has indicted a 74-year-old Modesto man accused of murder in the October shootings of a man and a pregnant woman. But the defendant will not face a murder charge in the death of the fetus the woman was carrying.
Initially, prosecutors filed three counts of murder against Robert Leon Lynch in connection with the shooting deaths of Chad Evert Romesha, Cynthia Antrim and the fetus.
The grand jury indictment, however, lists just two counts of murder against Lynch, who has been held at the Stanislaus County jail since the Oct. 5 shooting. He pleaded not guilty to the charges initially, but he has not entered a plea for the charges listed in the indictment.
On Monday, District Attorney Birgit Fladager said prosecutors could not seek a charge of murder in the fetus’s death because Antrim’s pregnancy was not far along enough that state law considers it a homicide.
Fladager declined to say how many months pregnant Antrim was, citing a federal law that protects the privacy of medical patients. She also said she did not feel comfortable discussing further details about the woman’s pregnancy because it no longer will be the subject of a separate charge or enhancement.
A 2004 state Supreme Court ruling determined that murder is defined to include the “unlawful killing” of a fetus beyond seven or eight weeks of development, whether the defendant knew the woman was pregnant or not. That Mendocino County case involved a man convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend, who was 11 to 13 weeks pregnant.
Romesha, 41, and Antrim, 30, both of Modesto, were shot near a trailer park just south of the Tuolumne River. In a criminal complaint filed two days after the shooting, prosecutors identified the woman’s fetus as “Baby Antrim.”
Deputy District Attorney Wendell Emerson has argued in court that the shooting was not a random act of violence. The prosecutor has said Lynch “ambushed” Romesha and Antrim, shooting the man in the back and the woman in her stomach while she was on the ground.
The shooting was reported about 11:15 a.m. in the 600 block of River Road, just east of South Ninth Street in Modesto.
While en route to the scene, Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputies learned that two people had been shot. The deputies arrived and found the man and woman with gunshot wounds. Antrim was pronounced dead at the scene. Romesha was taken to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, where he died from his injuries.
Deputies found Lynch at the scene when they arrived. He was taken into custody without incident and later arrested in the slayings. Sheriff’s detectives believe both victims were homeless and had been living along the river.
Lynch was a well-known volunteer for various organizations in the region before he became homeless and met Antrim and later Romesha.
The grand jury indictment was filed Feb. 26. Lynch appeared in court March 3 for an arraignment hearing, which was postponed until March 25.
Criminal grand jury proceedings are held behind closed doors, and witnesses testify without the defendants or their attorneys present. An indictment allows prosecutors to skip the preliminary hearing phase and move straight to a trial.
But indictment cases typically are stalled by defense challenges to the indictment or to the evidence presented to the grand jury.