SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man accused of stabbing his live-in girlfriend to death, then setting fire to their Clairemont home while others were sleeping is mentally competent to stand trial but must be evaluated for developmental disabilities before criminal proceedings are reinstated, a judge ruled Friday.
Anthony Elias Estrada, 42, faces murder and arson charges in the Feb. 6 death of 46-year-old Margaret Pappas.
On Friday, Judge Howard Shore adopted a doctor's determination that Estrada understands the nature of the charges against him and can assist his attorney at trial.
A review hearing was set for Aug. 31 following a further evaluation for developmental disabilities.
At Estrada's arraignment in February, prosecutor Dan Link told Judge David Szumowski that Estrada and Pappas, who had been dating 14 years, lived at the home on Huron Avenue with her two daughters and the boyfriend of one of the daughters.
In the early morning hours of Feb. 6, Estrada fatally stabbed Pappas once in the chest and twice in the head, then covered her body with clothes on the bed, Link alleged.
The defendant put two pet birds outside before starting two fires -- one in a rear bedroom and another in the living room -- and left the home, the prosecutor alleged.
The fires did not fully engulfed the house, and the other residents were able to escape safely, Link said.
Firefighters found the victim -- a special-education teacher's aide -- in the same bedroom where one of the blazes was extinguished just after 5 a.m. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Estrada walked to Clairemont High School and made some admissions to public officials there, Link said.
Police did not disclose a possible motive.
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