Orange County District Attorney Press Release
For Immediate Release, Case # 09ZF0074: February 4, 2014
SANTA ANA – A man was convicted today of 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. As the defendant entered pleas of “not guilty” and “not guilty by reason of insanity,” the trial will now move into a second phase, the sanity phase. The sanity phase will begin Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. in Department C-41, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana. Ettima faces a sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole if the jury finds he was legally sane at the time of the murder.
The sanity phase is held after a defendant is convicted and only if the defendant pleaded “not guilty by reason of insanity.” During this phase, the jury considers evidence to determine if the defendant was legally sane at the time of the crime. When a defendant pleads “not guilty by reason of insanity,” the burden is on the defense to prove that the defendant was more likely than not legally insane when he committed the crime. To be considered legally insane, the defense must prove that the defendant had a mental disease or defect when he committed the crime, and also that this defect kept the defendant from understanding the nature of his act or from understanding that his act was morally or legally wrong.
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.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Sonia Balleste is prosecuting this case.
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff