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Man stands trial in Paso Robles shooting of pregnant woman

dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A 27-year-old San Miguel man attempted to shoot and kill the woman he impregnated last year because he didn’t want the responsibility of being a father, a prosecutor argued Tuesday.

But the attorney representing Steven Jon Smith said outside court that he doubts the woman’s credibility and that he plans to put his client on the stand during the trial to explain “truthfully” what happened.

Opening statements began in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Tuesday in the case against Smith, who’s accused of two counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary for entering Gina Stanko’s

Paso Robles home with the intent to kill her Nov. 6, 2009.

Smith has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Deputy District Attorney Andy Cadena said that Smith planned to kill Stanko, who’s now 35, because he wanted to avoid the responsibilities of being a father. Smith felt that Stanko was the cause of his problems — which included the possibility that his fiancé would leave him, Cadena said.

In Judge John Trice’s courtroom, Cadena laid out a sequence of events in the case against Smith. Smith, a former Paso Robles High School assistant football coach, went to Stanko’s home after a game the night of the shooting, Cadena said.

The pressure on Smith after Stanko’s demand that he take care of his baby became “nearly unbearable” for him, Cadena said.

Cadena said Smith pondered his actions in Stanko’s driveway, where he sat for a time, telling police later that his “blood was starting to boil,” and then went into her home.

The two spoke for 10 minutes in her living room and then he asked her to lie down on a couch for “some loving,” Cadena said. Then he allegedly put a pillow in front of her head and started firing shots with a handgun, striking her in the upper head, chin and hand. Stanko rose from the couch and resisted — yelling to her teenage daughter upstairs to call the police, Cadena said.

Smith fled from the home and was later arrested, acknowledging the shooting to police, who retrieved the gun from his truck, Cadena said.

Stanko reiterated many of the details laid out by Cadena when she took the stand.

“I’ve had five surgeries,” Stanko said. “I still have bullet fragments in my chin and hand.”

She also said that six days after the shooting, she delivered her baby boy, fathered by Smith. The 13-month-old baby is her sixth child, she said, and her other children range from 2 to 16 years old.

But Smith’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, said outside court that Stanko’s testimony had numerous inconsistencies.

Funke-Bilu said his client did have a gun, but the events didn’t happen the way Stanko claimed. He said Smith, who is out on bail, will take the stand in the case.

“He’ll testify truthfully,” Funke-Bilu said.

In his cross-examination, Funke-Bilu got Stanko to admit that she gave a false birth date on her Facebook page — saying she was born in 1971 instead of 1975.

He also questioned her on the consistency of statements she made to police about several events: when she had a physical encounter with Smith at Barney Schwartz Park; whether or not she told police Smith had used a pillow in the shooting and whether she had said she agreed with his request to have her lie down.

On the stand, Stanko said she used profanity when speaking of Smith’s fiancé. She also said there were two separate occasions when she slapped and pushed Smith because she was angry about his reaction to her urging that he take responsibility for his child.

The trial resumes today at 10:30 a.m.

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