On April 16, 2021, Rhona Fantone went to her home in Lemon Grove, Calif., to pick up some clothes and other items she needed to stay at her sister’s home that night.
The 30-year-old nurse planned to spend the night because she and her husband, Jay Barcelon, were having marital problems, ABS-CBN News reports.
While she was packing, the unthinkable happened: Rhona called her sisters saying that she and Balceron, a Navy sailor, were arguing when Barcelon locked her in a closet and wouldn’t let her leave, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune.
“She was telling me to tell her two kids that she loves them so much, like repeatedly telling me to ‘tell my kids I love them so much,'” one of Rhona’s sisters, Rhoda, said, ABS-CBN News and the Filipino News report.
“‘Please tell them,'” Rhona implored, her sister recounted. “She kept reiterating those words.'”
Rhona’s two children, 10 and 12, are from a previous marriage.
Deputies who arrived at the home at 7:30 p.m., said they heard screaming inside the house and forced their way inside, Lt. Thomas Seiver of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said, NBC San Diego reports.
“Based on the investigation, homicide detectives concluded Jay stabbed Rhona while inside the residence. Jay also sustained injuries during the altercation,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement on April 17, 2021.
They were rushed to the hospital, where Rhona died shortly after.
Barcelon underwent surgery for his wounds.
He was later arrested and charged with murder. After initially pleading not guilty, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last Wednesday, the same day his trial was scheduled to begin, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
He will be sentenced on Dec. 5, and faces 16 years to life in state prison.
As he awaits sentencing, Rhona’s family is still mourning the loss of the woman who “was always smiling,” Rhoda said, the Filipino News reports.
“Even at work, they know her for being positive and very energetic,” she said. “She was very caring as a friend.”
In a GoFundMe set up to help defray funeral costs and help support Rhona’s children, the family friend who is managing the fundraising page wrote, “At just 30 years old, [Rhona] had so much life left to live.
“Her last words were an expression of the depths of her love for her children,” the page states.
Barcelon’s attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.