Competency exam for man accused of fatally stabbing girlfriend - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Competency exam for man accused of fatally stabbing girlfriend

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A mental competency examination was ordered Friday for a man accused of fatally stabbing his live-in girlfriend, whose body was found when firefighters responded to a blaze at their Clairemont home.

Anthony Elias Estrada, 42, is charged with murder and arson in the death of 46-year-old Margaret Pappas.

Superior Court Judge David Szumowski suspended criminal proceedings Friday after the defendant's attorney, Frank Barone, said he doubted Estrada's ability to understand the charges against him and assist in his own defense.

Estrada will be evaluated by doctors and return to court July 6.

Emergency crews found Pappas, a special-education teacher's aide, dead from an apparent knife wound just after 5 a.m. Feb. 6 while extinguishing several intentionally set fires in the couple's home.

Firefighters responding to a 911 call in the 4800 block of Huron Avenue arrived to find two blazes inside the home, one in the living room and one in a rear bedroom, according to San Diego police.

Police Lt. Kevin Rooney said firefighters escorted three residents outside and later found the victim in a rear bedroom where a fire was extinguished.

Pappas was pronounced dead at the scene. The only resident of the house who was not present when emergency personnel arrived was Estrada, according to police.

Shortly before 7:30 a.m., while patrol officers were briefing homicide investigators about the case, Estrada surrendered to workers at Clairemont High School, the lieutenant said. The employees notified police, who responded and took Estrada into custody.

Police did not disclose a possible motive.

Estrada -- who remains held without bail -- faces 34 years to life in prison if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Dan Link.

One of the victim's three daughters said her mother and Estrada had been together more than a dozen years and wore wedding bands. Pappas also had a 14-year-old son.

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