CARLSBAD — A 41-year-old man accused of murdering his on-again, off-again girlfriend last summer in her Carlsbad home by slitting her throat testified he was “beyond angry” when he lost control of his emotions and killed the mother of two. Jonathan Scott French of La Costa testified he first beat and choked Jennifer Stark unconscious, and then grabbed a knife and stabbed the 43-year-old woman, who was a popular court reporter at the Vista Courthouse. While he admitted to the July 31, 2009, slaying, French was adamant he reacted in a blind rage without thinking after the couple got into an argument relating to their relationship. “I don’t really remember cutting her neck, at all,” said French from a downtown San Diego courtroom witness stand during cross-examination by prosecutor Jeff Dusek. “I wasn’t thinking, period.” In addition to bruising to her face and body as well as a broken nose, Stark suffered 14 knife wounds to her neck, including the fatal blow to the front of her neck, which caused a laceration down to her spine.
Within a matter of seconds, French testified his emotions went from “0 to 1,000 mph” when he discovered Stark had lied to him about another possible relationship she was involved in. Prior to the attack, French said he and Stark had gone out for drinks and dinner that evening.
Because French has conceded that he killed Stark, the jury will be tasked with determining if the medical supplies salesman is guilty of premeditated murder or the lesser included charge of voluntary manslaughter, which means French had no prior intent to commit the slaying. While a murder conviction is punished by life in prison, the maximum sentence for voluntary manslaughter is 11 years. Wearing a black suit and blue striped tie, French desperately tried to convey to the jury that he didn’t know what he was doing when he went into the kitchen and grabbed the knife from the third drawer he opened. Those his tone was mostly calm, French occasionally grew tense and frustrated as Dusek prodded him about the murder and his failed suicide attempts following the crime. French described the prosecutor’s theory about the killing as “garbage.” Dusek said that the killing was methodical and that French tried to cover up the crime by taking Stark’s cell phone, washing his hands in her bathroom and hiding the knife under a rug near the victim.
According to French, as he looked down on Stark’s lifeless, bloody body, he immediately realized what he had done and decided to kill himself. After driving to his La Costa home to take his daughter to his ex-wife’s house, French went home and tried to slit his wrists, when that didn’t work he got into his car and drove to a parking lot trying to think of a way to take his life. French eventually turned himself into authorities. “I wanted to die, if I had a gun I’d be dead now,” French testified, but added that it is difficult to commit suicide. In 1992, French was involved in domestic violence incident out of Pensacola, Fla., in which he battered and strangled his girlfriend at the time, according to court documents. He also has a misdemeanor conviction for disturbing the peace, which came about from a plea agreement relating to a battery charge. French’s case is being handled in downtown San Diego by an out-of-town judge because of Stark’s employment with the county court system. Retired Contra Costa County Judge Peter Spinetta is presiding over the trial.