|For Immediate Release
Case # 09CF0187
April 15, 2009
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
FUGITIVE ON PAROLE ARRESTED IN MEXICO TO BE ARRAIGNED FOR MURDERING GRANDMOTHER AND SETTING HOUSE ON FIRE WITH TWO YOUNG CHILDREN IN THE HOME
SANTA ANA – A parolee-fugitive arrested yesterday in Mexico will be arraigned tomorrow for murdering his grandmother and setting her house on fire while his 8-year-old brother and 3-year-old niece were inside the home. Joseph Elija Ettima, 26, is charged with one felony count of special circumstances murder during the commission of a robbery, one felony count of first degree robbery, one felony count of arson of an inhabited dwelling, two felony counts of child abuse, one felony count of criminal threats, and a sentencing enhancement for arson with an accelerant. If convicted on all counts, Ettima faces a minimum sentence of life without the possibility of parole. These charges make the defendant eligible for the death penalty. Ettima is being held without bail and is expected to be arraigned tomorrow, Thursday, April 16, 2009, at 9:00 a.m. at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana. The Department is to be determined.
Ettima is on parole for a 2007 conviction for being a prisoner in possession of a weapon stemming from an incarceration related to a juvenile offense. The defendant is accused of moving between motels in Orange County as he looked for a permanent residence.
On Jan. 19, 2009, Ettima is accused of visiting the Los Alamitos home of his 69-year-old grandmother, Emma Louise Hardwick–Street, to see if he could move in with her. Hardwick-Street was already raising two young children in her home including the defendant’s 8-year-old brother and 3-year-old niece. When the victim refused to let Ettima move in, the defendant is accused of arguing with his grandmother and murdering her. The two children were present in the home at the time that Ettima is accused of killing Hardwick-Street.
Ettima is accused of dousing clothes and other flammable items in the house with rubbing alcohol and setting the home on fire. He is accused of fleeing the scene, leaving the two children. The 8-year-old boy was able to escape from the fire to the front of the house and rescued the 3-year-old girl by taking her with him.
The Los Alamitos Police Department investigated this case with assistance from the United States Marshals Service. A warrant was issued for the defendant on Jan. 21, 2009. He was arrested by the United States Marshals Service in a town south of Mexico City and deported from Mexico to the United States yesterday, April 14, 2009.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Sonia Balleste of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.