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. Jury selection was set to begin Tuesday for the 2009 crime, but Ettima refused to come out of his cell and was put on suicide watch, the newspaper reported.
Deputy District Attorney Sonia Balleste told the Long Beach Press Telegram authorities would determine whether Ettima was suffering from mental issues or just trying to postpone his trial. Ettima pleaded not guilty be reason on insanity to the charges against him. The newspaper reported said his trial would be done in two phases. First jurors would determine if he was guilty, and then they would decide if he will be sent to a mental health facility or to prison.
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 Long Beach Press Telegram.