Joseph Elija Ettima--who in front of his 3-year-old niece stabbed their grandmother 15 times before she died in her Los Alamitos home, threatened to kill the little girl and his 8-year-old brother, set the home on fire, fled with everyone still inside and later tried to argue in court he was crazy--was sentenced today to 28 years to life in state prison.
A jury last month had declared the 30-year-old was sane at the time of the January 2009 crimes.
Before that, a jury convicted Ettima on 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.
Ettima went to 69-year-old Emma Louise Hardwick-Street's home on Jan. 19, 2009, to see if he could move in. But his grandmother informed she could not accommodate him because she was already raising his brother and niece there.
The little boy, Matthew Williams, was getting ready to watch his favorite TV show and pour himself a bowl of cereal when he heard a scream. The boy then found Ettima in the bathroom over the grandmother with the girl nearby. Threatening to kill the children, Ettima directed Matthew to help him gather clothes, brooms and other flammable material to pile on top of Hardwick-Street's body, which Ettima moved to her bed.
When the girl began crying, Ettima threatened to kill the children again if Matthew couldn't get her to stop. Ettima then ordered the boy to strike a match and throw it on his own grandmother. That set the home ablaze, and Ettima fled leaving everyone inside. The boy managed to grab his little sister and escape to a neighbor's house.
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From the District Attorney's office, whose Deputy DA Sonia Balleste prosecuted the case:
At the sentencing today, the victim's children and grandchildren gave impact statements telling the court that Hardwick-Street was very active in education and volunteered with several schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Pepperdine University and the University of California, Los Angeles. They described her as passionate about helping children and feel betrayed by the defendant for taking advantage of the victim's passion to help. Before they spoke, Ettima chose to excuse himself from the court during the victim impact statements and was brought back to be present for the announcement of the sentence.
Profile in courage, eh?