Jury selection continued today in the murder case of a 38-year-old Utah man accused of lighting his mother on fire behind the Indio furniture store in which she worked.
Israel Ramirez Guardado is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated mayhem and torture, with a special circumstance allegation of inflicting torture in the commission of a murder. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Guardado is acting as his own attorney. He questioned a fresh group of 25 potential jurors today along somewhat metaphysical lines
"What is a conscious? he asked. "Is it an evolutionary trait… or a gift from God?''
He asked the group to respond to a hypothetical scenario involving a state governor who received a call with new evidence that could exonerate a death row inmate awaiting execution. All the potential jurors responded affirmatively to the prospect of commuting a sentence if new findings supported the decision.
Jury selection is set to wrap up Nov. 12, court documents show.
According to a trial brief filed by the prosecution, Guardado and his mother, 61-year-old Francisca Ramirez, got into an argument on a loading dock behind the Mathis Brothers furniture store where she worked on the morning of Jan. 26, 2018.
Guardado had been at odds with his mother over the custody of his teenage daughter, prosecutors say, 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, he allegedly doused his mother's head with gasoline and set her ablaze. Before the flames could be extinguished by witnesses, the woman suffered second- and third-degree burns to 50% of her body. He then drove to the Indio Jail and surrendered.
Guardado was initially charged with attempted murder, but when his mother died of her injuries Feb. 25, 2018 -- nearly a month after the attack -- prosecutors filed an amended complaint with the murder charge, among other allegations.
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, he wrote, ``This will be my last post… I will show everyone the truth next month when I go to Kali live on Facebook.''
On Jan. 1, 2018, he wrote, ``Times up… I'm coming for you.'' Prosecutors allege the post was a directed at his mother.
He wrote another threatening post on Jan. 19, saying, ``I'm back in Kali and I'm ready to do whatever it takes… this won't go past Wednesday, just ask my mom,'' according to court documents.
Guardado is being held without bail at the Indio Jail. He has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.