VISTA (CNS) - A man accused of beating his mother to death in her Solana Beach home because she had decided to stop supporting him financially must stand trial on murder charges that could lead to the death penalty, a judge ruled Monday.
Bryan Chang, 31, is charged with murder and special circumstance allegations of torture and murder for financial gain in the January 2010 slaying of 60-year-old Sherry Chu Chang.
Evidence was presented at a two-day preliminary hearing before Judge Aaron Katz that the victim was at "her wits end" after years of supporting the defendant.
Katz said there was no direct evidence linking the defendant's mental illness -- defense attorney Kathleen Cannon said her client told his parents that he was schizophrenic and insane -- and the murder, as she had argued.
Before the victim's death, she sent an email to her ex-husband saying she couldn't communicate with their son. "He's in his own world," the email read.
In another email, the defendant told his mother, "It's no joke mom, I'm insane," Cannon told the judge.
The victim's body was found Jan. 25, 2010, at her home on Santa Florencia near San Elijo Lagoon after she didn't show up for work. Her son was arrested at his home in Los Angeles two nights later.
Sherry Chu Chang suffered 75 separate wounds, including blows to her arm, back and scalp, delivered by either a claw hammer, baseball bat or some other blunt force instrument, according to court testimony.
Cannon said the defendant smashed his mother's skull, then cut up her body, putting an arm and some broken bones in the refrigerator.
"That is just crazy," Cannon told the judge.
Despite her decision to cut the defendant off financially, his mother was always there for him, and in fact, was in Los Angeles the day before she was killed to buy her son a car, according to Cannon.
But prosecutor Rachel Solov said the victim had made changes to her accounts so that her son couldn't get access to them through credit cards or other means.
The victim's credit card was used after her murder, according to court testimony, and $2,000 was also taken from her purse.
Blood and the defendant's fingerprints were found at the murder scene, the judge noted.
Katz said the blows to the victim's body were delivered to inflict extreme pain. The judge said Chang was "upset and angered" by his mom's decision to change the way she supported him financially.
Chang -- who is being held without bail -- will be back in court Jan. 29 for arraignment in Superior Court.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis will decide later whether Chang will face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted.