Joseph Elija Ettima, 30, faces charges of murder during the commission of a robbery, arson of an inhabited dwelling using an accelerant, robbery, two counts of child abuse and one felony count of criminal threats. An Orange County Superior Court judge ruled Friday Ettima will have a jury trial to evaluate his mental competency, and will stand trial if it is determined that he is competent.
Ettima pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges against him. Jury selection was about to begin in September, but Ettima was placed on suicide watch after he refused to come out of his cell.
Deputy District Attorney Sonia Balleste accused Ettima of "manipulating the justice system to avoid trial," the newspaper reported.
Prosecutors allege Ettima killed his grandmother 69-year-old Emma Louise Hardwick-Street during an argument. They believe he set her apartment on fire after the murder, leaving his own 8-year-old brother and 3-year-old sister in the burning building. The little boy rescued his cousin, and both were placed in protective custody.
According to police, Ettima fled to Mexico and was placed on the U.S Marshal’s Most Wanted List because of his history of violence and weapons-related charges. Los Alamitos police issued a $25,000 reward for his capture, and Mexican authorities handed him over to the United States when he was arrested for an unrelated charge in that country four months after the killing.Read the full story on the Orange County Register.
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