A Ramona businessman who owned a rental home that blew up last Halloween, killing one of his employees, is scheduled to appear in an El Cajon courtroom today for a hearing that will determine if he should stand trial for murder.

Besides second-degree murder, James Anthony Kurtenbach is charged with arson causing great bodily injury, arson for financial gain, worker's compensation fraud and other charges stemming from the Oct. 31 explosion and fire that killed 24-year-old Joseph Nesheiwat and destroyed a 4,000-square-foot house on Mount Woodson.

Investigators determined that the blaze was intentionally set and that Nesheiwat died during the commission of the crime.

Prosecutors allege Nesheiwat had previously rejected Kurtenbach's request to burn down the home but he owed his boss money.

Kurtenbach's attorney said Nesheiwat's death was a terrible accident.

The defendant, who lives in Poway with his second wife, owned Stars Petroleum gas station for seven years.

According to county records, Kurtenbach owed $16,600 in back taxes on the destroyed home at the time of the fire.

At the end of the preliminary hearing -- which is expected to last two days -- a judge will decide whether enough evidence was produced for Kurtenbach to stand trial.