SANTA ANA (CNS) – A 33-year-old Iraq War veteran was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and “blacked out” when he stabbed his girlfriend to death moments after she told him she might be pregnant with another man’s child, a defense attorney told jurors Tuesday.
Frank Moseley is charged with murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon stemming from the Jan. 19, 2017, death of 25-year-old Janessa Smith. In his opening statement, Mosley’s attorney, David Hammond of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office, told jurors Tuesday he will argue for a conviction of voluntary manslaughter.
On Monday, Deputy District Attorney Christopher Alex told jurors they will be asked to consider if the killing was murder or manslaughter.
“It is not going to be a dispute who did it. He did it,” Alex said.
Addressing jurors Tuesday, Hammond said, “This is a very tragic and sad case on so many levels.”
Smith had three children, including one with the defendant, Hammond said.
“It was a very young and immature relationship,” Hammond said of the couple. “There was infidelity, there was deceit. … But there’s no justification for anyone’s life being taken. … This is an unfortunate case that should result in manslaughter and not murder.”
The defense attorney said his client’s father, a World War II veteran, ran a “very strict household. … It was described as very old school parenting. There was a history of physical abuse of the boys.”
One of Moseley’s brothers said boot camp in the Air Force “was nothing compared to growing up in the Moseley household,” Hammond said.
Once, when Moseley’s father found out the defendant, who is Black, was dating a white girl in high school, he kicked him out of the house and chased him down the street, firing a gunshot at him, Hammond said.
Moseley grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago, Hammond said. He and his brothers wanted to follow in their father’s footsteps and enlist in the military, Hammond said. Moseley served as a medic in the Navy and regularly patrolled with a Marine unit in Iraq, according to the attorney. Moseley was honorably discharged in September 2009, but with an “unsatisfactory performance” because he had PTSD and made efforts to hide it, Hammond said.
Moseley was going to nursing school when he was living with the victim at the time of the killing, Hammond said. An expert is expected to testify that Moseley developed PTSD due to his childhood and tour of duty and the 270 patrols he did in Iraq, Hammond said.
The victim had been making money selling drugs with another man, Hammond said, and both were having trouble finding jobs.
When she told him she suspected she was pregnant with the other man’s child, Moseley lost it and stabbed her with a kitchen knife, Hammond said. Then the defendant set small fires around the home and prepared to kill himself with smoke when he heard the couple’s baby in the other room, Hammond said.
He was so shaken that he fled the apartment barefoot with the baby and drove off in a pickup. When he saw an officer on the road, he veered over to the wrong side of the street to pass the squad car and get in front to force the officer to stop, Hammond said.
The defense attorney showed jurors an eight-minute video of officers attempting to calm the distraught suspect and take the baby away to safety.
“I snapped, I lost it,” Moseley said on the video. “Can you take my life. Please take my life. … Shoot me, please shoot me.”
An officer responded, “I’m not going to shoot you in front of your kid.”
Later, as Moseley continued to plead with the officers to kill him, an officer said, “Frank, we don’t want to hurt you.”
Hammond said Moseley was “very cooperative” when police questioned him.
Moseley stabbed Smith about 14 times with a “chef’s knife” in the living room of Smith’s two-bedroom apartment at 120 E. Wilken Way, near Orangewood Avenue, Alex said Monday.
Moseley and the victim “had a dating relationship going back years,” Alex said.
The two broke up, but then around the holidays they reconciled and she accepted his marriage proposal, Alex said.
But “almost as quickly” as they reconciled, “The victim began to have second thoughts,” Alex said.
She was stabbed to death late that morning or in the early afternoon, according to the prosecutor.
After fatally stabbing Smith, Moseley filled up the bath tub and submerged smoke detectors in the water before setting fires in the apartment as part of his “first suicide attempt,” Alex said.
As officers were taking Moseley into custody, Smith’s sister found the body and screamed, drawing the attention of the apartment manager who dialed 911, Alex said.
There was no indication in Smith’s autopsy that showed she was pregnant, Alex said.
Moseley had “suspicions” of an affair for some time, but he “insists” she did not confirm it until seconds before he killed her, Alex said.
Moseley had cut marks on his arm that he said were self-inflicted and done before the killing, Alex said. The knife “slipped” as he was killing Smith, so he also had fresh cuts, the prosecutor alleged.
Moseley told an administrator in a nursing program six days before the killing that the daughter he had with Smith was not his, Alex said.
“I accuse the defendant of murder, but I do not accuse the defendant of being a villain,” Alex said. “He served our country honorably. And if you believe the VA he suffers from an anxiety disorder and if you believe the defense’s expert he has (post-traumatic stress disorder).”
Moseley had been “off his meds for about six months” before the killing, Alex said.