|For Immediate Release
Case # 09ZF0074 March 7, 2014
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
MAN SENTENCED TO 28 YEARS TO LIFE FOR MURDERING GRANDMOTHER AND SETTING HOUSE ON FIRE WITH TWO YOUNG CHILDREN INSIDE
SANTA ANA – A man was sentenced today to 28 years to life in state prison 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, 30, was found guilty by a jury Feb. 4, 2014, of one felony count of second degree murder, one felony count of arson of an inhabited dwelling, two felony counts of child abuse, and a sentencing enhancement for arson with an accelerant. The defendant, who entered pleas of “not guilty” and “not guilty by reason of insanity,” was found to be legally sane at the time of the murder by the jury on Feb. 19, 2014.
On Jan. 19, 2009, Ettima visited 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 argued with his grandmother and stabbed her to death. The two children were present in the home at the time that Ettima murdered Hardwick-Street.
Ettima doused clothes and other flammable items in the house with rubbing alcohol and set the home on fire. He then fled 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.
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 on April 14, 2009.
At the sentencing today, the victim’s children and grandchildren gave impact statements telling the court that Hardwick-Street was very active in education and volunteered with several schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Pepperdine University and the University of California, Los Angeles. They described her as passionate about helping children and feel betrayed by the defendant for taking advantage of the victim’s passion to help. Before they spoke, Ettima chose to excuse himself from the court during the victim impact statements and was brought back to be present for the announcement of the sentence.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Sonia Balleste prosecuted this case.