Mira Mesa man convicted in house fire that killed mother and sis - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Mira Mesa man convicted in house fire that killed mother and sister

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A Mira Mesa man was convicted Thursday of murder, attempted murder and arson for setting a fire in his home that killed his mother and sister and sent a male roommate running into the street with just the clothes on his back.

Thongsavath Sphabmixay, 46, will be sentenced to life in prison without parole at a hearing Dec. 19.

A jury deliberated about three hours before finding Sphabmixay guilty of murder and special circumstance allegations of murder by arson and multiple murders in the deaths of 69-year-old Bouakham Sphabmixay and 48-year-old Pamela Sphabmixay.

The defendant leaned back in his chair but displayed little emotion as the verdicts were read.

Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney told the jury in her closing argument that the defendant set the 1:30 a.m. fire on a second-floor loft outside the victims' bedroom after they had gone to sleep on April 4, 2013.

The roommate was able to escape the flames, but Sphabmixay's mother and sister weren't able to get out and died a day later of smoke inhalation.

"He (the defendant) lit a fire that blocked everybody in," Rooney told the jury.

The prosecutor said the defendant made no attempt to save his mother and sister, fled the scene in his car, returned an hour later and was arrested.

A lighter was found in his pocket, gas was found on his clothes, and his DNA was located on a gas can in the burned home, Rooney said.

Defense attorney Richard Gates said law enforcement failed to collect evidence in the case and rushed to a judgment that Sphabmixay set the fire.

Gates said police didn't collect the roommate's clothing or check whether Pamela Sphabmixay -- a diagnosed schizophrenic -- was taking her medication.

"You don't know who set the fire," Gates told the jury.

The male roommate testified that Sphabmixay argued often with the victims, but they spoke a different language so he didn't know what they were saying.

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