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The San Bernadino Press-Enterprise
09:18 PM PST on Saturday, January 3, 2004
By JOHN F. BERRY / The Press-Enterprise
RIALTO: A teenager who shot her ex-fiance, then shot herself, had been depressed, relatives said.
Antoinette Smith was depressed and had been on medication when she shot her ex-boyfriend, a Fontana police officer, and then herself early Saturday morning in rural Rialto, officials and relatives said.
San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials are calling the incident a murder-suicide; Smith’s aunts said they believe their 19-year-old niece never recovered from breaking up with Mario Nelson, 31. “She was young. She couldn’t deal with it,” said LaJoy Ervin, an aunt, while sitting in a car near police tape cordoning off Nelson’s home. “She was doing things that weren’t normal.”
Neighbor John Van Uffelen, 67, said he saw a sheriff’s deputy at Nelson’s house in the 6000 block of Geremander Avenue a month ago breaking up a fight at 5:30 a.m. Uffelen said he spoke with Nelson the next day.
David Bauman / The Press-Enterprise
Rialto police Officer Rod Clayton, 27, is comforted by a friend, Euridici Johnson, 26, outside a home where a Fontana police officer was shot and killed.
“He said she was bugging him and interfering with his business,” said Uffelen, a cigarette in his hand on a chilly afternoon. “He informed me that if I ever saw her again, (I should) call the sheriff’s department.”
Ervin, 26, and Marcia McWatley, 35, said their niece took medication after the breakup in late September. They said Smith was a teacher’s aide in special education at Eisenhower High School in Rialto.
“The holidays came around,” McWatley said. “She was depressed and not with him.”
Ervin said Smith recently had been accepted into Cal State San Bernardino and planned to complete her teaching degree there.
Both Ervin and McWatley described Smith as a bright, ambitious, determined and an attractive young woman from Rialto. They said she and Nelson were once engaged, and at one point, she had gone shopping for a wedding gown.
Fontana Police Chief Frank Scialdone declined comment while meeting with relatives and officials gathered near the police tape on Rowan Avenue. Nelson’s relatives and friends, mourning within view of his house, also declined comment.
“He was a good man,” Rialto police officer Rod Clayton, 27, said earlier in the afternoon.
Uffelen said he was reading the newspaper about 6 a.m. Saturday when he heard yelling and screaming at Nelson’s house. He said he heard eight shots, followed by a short pause, followed by two more shots.
“It was somebody practically unloaded the gun,” he said. “It was boom, boom, boom, boom.”
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Robin Haynalsaid the sheriff’s department got a call at 7:14 a.m. about gunfire at the house. Deputies found the garage door open and a Fontana policecar in the garage.
A report from the Fontana Police Department said Nelson was hired by the department in 1999 and became a canine officer in June. The report said he was previously a security officer with the Rialto Unified School District as well as a Marine Corps reservist.
Neighbors said Nelson had widened the driveway and installed new carpet since moving in less than two years ago. They also said Smith lived with him for a time.
“I thought they were a young couple in love,” said neighbor Brenda Hatcher, 42.