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College Park man convicted in 2007 murder

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

College Park resident, Antonio Bernard Rome, is awaiting sentencing after a jury found him guilty, on Wednesday, of the murder of his on-again, off-again boyfriend, Tommy Crooks, outside a friend's home in 2007, according to Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Katie Powers.

Powers said Rome, 27, was found guilty on five counts, including felony murder, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime. The assistant district attorney said the defendant stabbed his ex-boyfriend three times during an argument they were having outside a home located on Friar Court, in College Park.

The home belonged to one of Rome's friends, and he was house-sitting for the friend, who was out of the country at the time of the stabbing, according to court documents. The court documents show that Rome and Crooks had been dating for approximately a year prior to the murder. Crooks was 19 when he died, according to Powers.

"He [Rome] alleged the victim had picked up a flower pot, and he felt his life was in danger, so he stabbed him," Power said. "A couple of the stab wounds were made after the victim was no longer holding the flower pot. He [Crooks] dropped it, but he [Rome] kept stabbing him."

This was the district attorney's office's second try to get a conviction for Rome. Court records show he was indicted for the crime in March 2008, but a previous trial, in September 2009, ended in a hung jury. This second trial lasted three days, Powers said.

Powers said a sentencing hearing date has not yet been set. "We expect it to be in a couple of weeks, though," she said. The assistant district attorney said she could not speculate on what Rome's sentence might be, because it depends on "what [charges] the judge decides will be merged."

In the early morning hours of Sept. 28, 2007, Rome and Crooks were drinking Hennessey and watching television, when Crooks tried to convince Rome to have sex with him, according to the September 2007 application for a warrant for Rome's arrest.

During his first trial, last year, a videotape of Clayton County police interviewing Rome was shown, in which the defendant said he and Crooks had already had sex at least once before that night.

In the warrant application for Rome's arrest, Clayton County Police Officer Michael Christian wrote that Rome had allegedly called a female friend the day after the stabbing occurred, and told her he and Crooks had begun fighting when Rome turned down the request for more sex.

"Crooks wanted to have sex with him, but Rome did not want to have sex with Crooks," Christian wrote. "Rome wanted to break up with Crooks."

Rome allegedly told the friend that Crooks began throwing things at him, and hit him with a television remote control, Christian wrote. The officer wrote that Rome then asked Crooks to take the argument outside, so they would not damage the home he was house-sitting. That is when Crooks allegedly picked up the flower pot, and Rome stabbed him, according to both Powers and the arrest warrant.

According to Officer Christian's arrest warrant affidavit, Rome allegedly told his friend that Crooks said, "You cut me" after the first stab wound was made, and Crooks then "kept hitting him in the head with his fist, so he stabbed him two more times, and then pushed him to the ground."

Christian wrote that "Crooks stood up, and walked away" from the scene of the crime, "but fell down in the front yard" before Rome fled the scene.

Powers said that when Rome testified during his trial on Tuesday, his own words about the number of times he stabbed Crooks ended up hurting him. "He admitted to [Chief Assistant District Attorney Erman Tanjuatco] that it was excessive," she said. "I think it was the defendant's admission, that the last stab was excessive, that led to the jury convicting him."

Powers said the jury deliberated for three hours on Wednesday, before issuing its verdict.