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Not guilty plea from woman accused of trying to push 74-year-old mom back into burning home

A 41-year-old woman accused of setting fire to the Lakeside home she shared with her mother is scheduled to be arraigned Friday at the courthouse in El Cajon.

EL CAJON (CNS) - A woman accused of trying to kill her 74-year-old mother by pushing her back into their burning Lakeside home after setting fire to the residence on New Year's Day pleaded not guilty Friday to attempted murder, arson, elder abuse, dissuading a witness and other charges.

Neomi Lynn Rodriguez, 41, was ordered held on $1.5 million bail over the objection of prosecutor C.J. Mody, who urged that no bail be set.

Mody said the defendant, who faces 12 1/2 years in prison if convicted, was arrested two days prior to the Jan. 1 fire after she called the Sheriff's Department to say she was having hallucinations from being under the influence of methamphetamine. Rodriguez was released from custody 10 to 12 hours later, and authorities were again called to the home about 4 p.m. Tuesday.

"This is obviously a sad and tragic case where a 74-year-old mother lost her house -- her house was burned down -- she could have been seriously hurt or injured, and we felt that no bail was appropriate in this case," Mody told reporters.

Mody said the victim -- identified as Kazuko Martinez -- was in bed Tuesday afternoon when she got up and noticed her daughter's bedroom was on fire.

As the mother tried to leave, her daughter grabbed her and tried to push her into the burning bedroom, but she was able to resist and proceeded toward the front door, the prosecutor said.

Mody alleged that the defendant tackled her mother and said, "You're not getting out of here." Rodriguez used a tablecloth to try to bind her mother to a dining room table, but the older woman was able to break free, the prosecutor alleged. Rodriguez also ripped the phone out of her mother's hand when she tried to call 911, according to Mody, who said neighbors heard the victim's screams and were able to get her away from the burning house.

The defendant tried to stop the neighbors from using garden hoses to put out the fire, the prosecutor alleged.

Both mother and daughter were treated for smoke inhalation.

Judge Charles Ervin said Rodriguez was on misdemeanor probation and had previously failed to appear in court on six occasions.

Rodriguez faces misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and being under the influence of a controlled substance stemming from the Dec. 30 incident. She will be back in court Jan. 10 for a readiness conference and Jan. 17 for a preliminary hearing.


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