Crime

Neighbor testifies about fatal west Modesto shooting

Jacqueline Millan barely could speak as she lay on the ground at the edge of a west Modesto home’s driveway, wounded from gunfire.

Floriberto Aguilar told a jury Thursday that he ran to Millan’s side that night two years go. He said he asked her who had shot her, but she didn’t respond. He already had called 911, so he told her to hold on.

“She kept telling me, ‘Help me, help me,’ ” Aguilar said on the witness stand.

Millan, 48, died at a hospital six days later. Her boyfriend, Tom Franks, is on trial. He is accused of shooting his girlfriend to death.

Aguilar testified that he knew Millan and her boyfriend and knew the couple were renovating a home in the 1600 block of Vernon Avenue, a few blocks northeast of Paradise and Carpenter roads.

The shooting occurred outside that house about 9:40 p.m. May 4, 2012. Aguilar said he was inside his nearby home when he heard the couple arguing. He could tell from their voices that it was Millan and Franks.

The argument intensified, Aguilar said, so he called 911 to report the domestic dispute. He poked his head outside his bedroom window, which faces Vernon, and spotted Millan standing at the end of the driveway near the street.

From the sound of Franks’ voice, Aguilar said, the defendant was near the home’s garage. But he couldn’t see Franks.

Aguilar told the jury that Millan was accusing Franks of cheating on her, but he couldn’t hear how Franks was responding to the accusations.

Aguilar saw a tall, skinny man run out of a nearby alley in the direction of where Millan was standing. He said he couldn’t tell who it was or whether the man was involved in the dispute. He also testified that the unknown man did not resemble the defendant.

Then, Aguilar heard three shots fired, but the gunfire didn’t sound real. “It sounded like a little toy cap gun, like a popping noise,” Aguilar testified.

After the gunfire, Aguilar said, he heard footsteps on gravel but couldn’t tell who it was. He testified that it sounded as though the footsteps were headed back toward the alley, but he later said he couldn’t tell in which direction they were headed because sounds echo in his part of the neighborhood.

Aguilar initially told investigators that Millan and Franks argued that night for about 10 to 15 minutes before he heard shots, but he testified Thursday that the argument went on for about 20 to 30 minutes before the gunfire. “I have a really bad memory,” he said about the duration of the argument.

Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputies arrived and found the injured woman on the ground. The deputies searched the home and found Franks inside.

In a preliminary hearing in January, Detective Frank Soria testified that Franks told investigators that he and Millan had argued earlier that night at a Paradise Road home. He said he left and went to the Vernon Avenue home. Millan showed up later, he said, banging on his door and accusing him of cheating with another woman.

Soria testified that Franks said he and Millan wrestled in the home’s front yard before he bear-hugged her. Franks said he heard a gunshot before he let go of Millan and went back in the house, according to the detective’s testimony.

Franks told the investigators that he last saw Millan walking toward the street. The defendant told them he didn’t check on Millan because he was confused and having blackouts.

Soria also said in the preliminary hearing that Franks never told the investigators he shot Millan, saw her hit by gunfire or saw her bleeding.

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