Man sentenced for murder on Santa Rosa street, attempted murder in theater

Delonte Anthony Hart 

A Bay Area man was sentenced in Sonoma County Superior Court Thursday morning for a fatal stabbing on a Santa Rosa street and an attempted murder stabbing in a Santa Rosa movie theater in 2016.

Delonte Anthony Hart, 26, pleaded guilty to the charges in November. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for the second-degree murder of Cirak Mateos Tesfazgi, 22, on Riley Street on June 26, 2016, and to 12 years in prison for the attempted murder of Adam Lucero, 23, in the Roxy Stadium 14 theater three days later.

The sentences will be served consecutively, not concurrently.

Tesfazgi's mother Elsa Tekle was too emotional to attend the sentencing Thursday, Deputy District Attorney Troye Shaffer said. Shaffer told Judge Bradford DeMeo the stabbings in quick succession had a great impact on the community. 

Lucero did not submit a written victim impact statement to the court, but in a letter to DeMeo, his mother Debra Lucero said her son had treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder for a year after the stabbing.

She said her son was in a hospital for two weeks and could barely walk with a walker. The stab wound to his neck injured his voice box and slurred his speech, Lucero said.

"The stabbing was the most stressful year of my life," she said in her letter.

Hart was deemed mentally incompetent in March 2017 to stand trial and he was sent to Napa State Hospital. The hospital later found his competence was restored and a judge agreed after a subsequent trial on the competence issue.

A psychiatrist for the defense at the trial argued Hart remained incompetent, but she later changed her opinion and criminal proceedings against Hart resumed this year, Deputy Public Defender Jeff Mitchell said.

Santa Rosa police said Hart stabbed Tesfazgi more than 50 times outdoors at 418 Riley St. Police found a large chef's knife at the scene and determined a Macy's store in the Santa Rosa Plaza sold the make and model of the knife.

Store employees noticed two knives were missing, and they told detectives a suspicious person was seen in the cutlery area on more than one occasion. Macy's security staff also found a chef's knife package discarded on a stairwell outside the store, and police matched the package to the make and model of the murder weapon.

Detectives also saw a person in a video taken inside Macy's leaving an exit near the stairwell where the knife packaging was found. Patrol officers recognized him as Hart from several previous encounters and police began looking for him.

Police then responded on June 29, 2016, to the theater where Lucero, who recently moved to Sonoma County, was stabbed from behind while watching a movie. Police found a knife identical to the one used against Tesfazgi in a garbage can at the theater, and Hart was arrested nearby.

Police said Tesfazgi's blood was found on Hart's clothing and Hart's fingerprints were found on the chef's knife left at the murder scene.

Hart is from Baltimore and he spent time in the Bay Area and Southern California, according to police. 

Judge DeMeo said the stabbing in the movie theater showed an elevated level of callousness and cruelty because it occurred in a venue where one would have the expectation of being safe. Instead, Lucero was particularly vulnerable in the dark theater, the judge said.

The theft of the knives showed Hart was looking for someone to stab, DeMeo said. He acknowledged Hart's mental illness, but said both crimes were unprovoked.

Tesfazgi's mother was in court when Hart pleaded guilty in November.

"I'm glad he pleaded guilty. I wish I knew why it (the murder) happened," Tekle said at the time.

She said her son had bachelor's degrees in English and political science. 

Shaffer said Tekle will never be whole again, and she doesn't want Hart freed anytime soon.