A judge today ordered a psychological evaluation for a 33-year-old woman accused of torturing an elderly man to death and dumping his body in a La Quinta trash bin.
Cristina Noelle Canimo, of Palm Desert, was arrested Nov. 22, the day after the body of Ronald Clarke, 87, was found inside a trash bin outside a home in a gated community in the 43500 block of east Parkway Esplanade.
Riverside County sheriff's officials later confirmed the home was being used as a residential care facility. Canimo was a caregiver at the facility, and Clark was a patient, authorities said.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Ronald Johnson on Monday granted a defense motion for Canimo to undergo the evaluation, which includes a one-on-one interview with a psychologist, who will also pour over Canimo's medical and mental-health records.
After the evaluation is completed, Patricia Kirkish is expected to prepare a report that a judge will use to decide whether Canimo is competent to stand trial.
Canimo pleaded not guilty to murder and torture charges earlier this month. She remains housed without bail at the Indio jail.
The murder charge against Canimo includes a special circumstance allegation of inflicting torture during the commission of a murder, making her eligible for the death penalty if the District Attorney's Office decides to pursue it. Prosecutors allege she used a knife, box cutter, screwdriver and a hammer in the crime.
News Channel 3's Jake Ingrassia discovered a home on the same street, East Parkway Esplanade, is licensed as an elderly care facility calledSunbrook Residential Care. He also uncovered new information regarding recent state violations there.
Documents from the Department of Social Services show the home was evaluated on Sept. 17 this year.
During the unannounced inspection, state officials found a person working there with a criminal record. That person was a staff member in 2014, when they were disassociated and removed from the facility's roster.
Records show the facility's administrator, Ramona Sykes, said that employee worked there again this year for two days, which the state deemed an "immediate health and safety risk to the residents in care." The facility was fined $200.
The state also investigated a complaint of traumatic patient injury back in January this year. Officials found that "staff neglect resulted in a resident sustaining a fracture" as a staff member tried to transfer a resident from a sofa to a wheelchair.
The resident suffered multiple skin tears on both arms and a doctor advised them to go to the hospital. The resident wasn't hospitalized, though, until more than 3 days later, when they were diagnosed with a fractured tailbone, requiring its surgical removal – most likely the result of a fall.
The documents show the staff was instructed not to move the resident, but they did. They were fined $500.
A motive for the killing remains a mystery.
Canimo is scheduled to return to court for a felony settlement conference on March 6.