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Motions begin in trial of man accused of burning mother to death

Pre-trial motions will be heard starting today in the death penalty trial of a man accused of setting fire to his mother outside her Indio workplace, causing injuries that killed her about a month after he allegedly doused her in flammable liquid and set her ablaze.

Israel Guardado-Ramirez, 38, is accused of setting fire to Francisca Ramirez, 61, of North Shore, on Jan. 26, 2018, at the loading dock outside the Mathis Brothers furniture store where she worked. Ramirez died at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton on Feb. 25, having suffered burns over more than 50 percent of her body.

Pre-trial motions are expected to be held through this week, with jury selection to begin next week.

Prosecutors initially charged the defendant with attempted murder and torture, but filed a murder charge against Guardado-Ramirez shortly after his mother’s death.

This May, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office filed paperwork stating their intention to seek capital punishment.

If jurors convict Guardado-Ramirez of murder, along with any of the special circumstance allegations, the trial will enter a second penalty phase in which the panel will be tasked with recommending death or life imprisonment without parole.

The special circumstance allegations include murder with mayhem, lying in wait and murder involving the infliction of torture.

A motive for the killing has not been specifically stated by police and prosecutors, though a declaration filed with the court by Indio police Detective Jesse Marin said the defendant, who was living out of his car at the time, traveled to Indio “with the purpose of `settling matters’ with family members, which included his mother.”

Shortly after Ramirez was taken to the hospital, she identified her son as the suspect, police said. Guardado-Ramirez then walked into the Riverside County jail in Indio and turned himself in, according to Indio police Sgt. Daniel Marshall.

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