Jury selection entered its third day Thursday for the murder trial of a man who allegedly set his mother on fire during a dispute outside her Coachella Valley workplace.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Israel Ramirez Guardado, 38, who is accused of killing 61-year-old Francisca Ramirez in North Shore last year.
The defendant, who is acting as his own attorney, is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated mayhem and torture, with a special circumstance allegation of inflicting torture in the commission of a murder, making him eligible for capital punishment if convicted.
Top news of the day
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Anthony Villalobos began screening prospective jurors Tuesday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio. The selection process may continue until mid-November.
Guardado was initially charged with attempted murder, but prosecutors filed a superseding complaint with the murder charge and other allegations soon after his mother's death.
According to a trial brief filed by the prosecution, on the morning of Jan. 26, 2018, the defendant and victim got into an argument on a loading dock behind the Mathis Brothers furniture store where she worked. The circumstances were unclear, though according to the brief, Guardado had been at odds with his mother over the custody of his teenage daughter, and he likely went to the store to speak with her about it. He was living out of his car at the time, according to police.
During the exchange, Guardado allegedly doused his mother's head with gasoline and ignited the petrol. Before the flames could be extinguished by witnesses, the woman suffered second- and third-degree burns to 50 percent of her body. She succumbed to her injuries just over a week later.
Immediately after he allegedly set his mother aflame, Guardado drove to the Indio Jail and surrendered.
The defendant's Facebook posts in the months leading up to the attack revealed a troubled relationship with his mom, according to the prosecution's brief. On Dec. 26, 2017, the defendant wrote, "This will be my last post... I will show everyone the truth next month when I go to Kali live on Facebook."
On January 1, 2018, the defendant wrote, "Times up... I'm coming for you," an apparent threat directed at the victim, prosecutors allege.
On January 19, 2018, the defendant wrote, "I'm back in Kali and I'm ready to do whatever it takes to clear my... keep watching this won't go past Wednesday, just ask my mom," according to documents.
Guardado, who is being held without bail at the Indio Jail, has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.