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Man sought in grandmother's slaying arrested in Mexico

  • Story Highlights
  • Joseph Elias George Ettima, 25, was arrested by authorities in Mexico
  • Ettima is accused of killing his 69-year-old grandmother and then burning her body
  • Two children witnessed the slaying in January in Los Alamitos, California
  • Los Alamitos Police Chief says the capture provides a "sense of security"
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- A man suspected of killing his grandmother and setting her body on fire was returned to Los Angeles, California, after being arrested in Mexico, authorities said Wednesday.

Joseph Ettima, 25, is suspected of murdering his grandmother and burning her body.

Joseph Ettima, 25, is suspected of murdering his grandmother and burning her body.

Joseph Elias George Ettima, 25, was arrested in the Mexican state of Chiapas on Monday, said Bert Tapia, supervisory deputy for the U.S. Marshal's Pacific Southwest Regional Fugitive Task Force. He was brought back to Los Angeles late Tuesday night.

"He was homeless," Tapia said. "Didn't have much with him, didn't have any identification."

Ettima initially claimed to be from Belize, Tapia said. When authorities were unable to verify that, he then said he was Nigerian. But officials were able to determine he was actually from California, where he was sought in the January 19 death of his 69-year-old grandmother, Emma Hardwick-Street, in the Orange County town of Los Alamitos.

After allegedly killing Hardwick-Street, authorities believe Ettima set fire to her body and house to cover up the crime before fleeing. "The crime is particularly heinous in that two young children were in the home at the time of the murder and witnessed the event," according to a U.S. Marshal's statement.

Two of Hardwick-Street's grandchildren, ages 8 and 3, were present at the time of her slaying, according to Los Alamitos police. The 8-year-old was Ettima's younger brother, according to the U.S. Marshals wanted poster on Ettima.

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Police are not releasing how Hardwick-Street died, said Los Alamitos Police Capt. Bruce McAlpine. CNN affiliate KTLA reported she was stabbed. Twelve people were initially displaced by the fire in Hardwick-Street's apartment building, police said.

According to the U.S. Marshals' wanted poster on Ettima, the suspect's 8-year-old brother witnessed the slaying. A 3-year-old girl was also present, according to the Orange County Register. Authorities said Ettima had recently been paroled from prison and had "a long criminal history of violence with weapons."

The history includes robbery, weapons possession, manufacturing of weapons and indecent exposure, according to a February statement from U.S. Marshals.

Los Alamitos police asked the U.S. Marshals task force for assistance the day after Hardwick-Street was killed, and the federal authorities put Ettima on their 15 Most Wanted fugitives list in February. U.S. Marshals, working with Los Alamitos police and Mexican authorities, were able to match Ettima's description to that of the man in custody in Mexico, authorities said.

In addition to the homicide charge, Ettima was wanted on charges of robbery, arson, child endangerment and parole violation.

"Ettima has a long history of violence, and his latest crime demonstrates a callous disregard for human life that is unimaginable," said John F. Clark, director of the U.S. Marshals Service, in the Wednesday statement. "Capturing him was one of our highest priorities."

Ettima's arrest "is the first step in bringing justice to the victim and those affected by this brutal crime," said Los Alamitos Police Chief Todd Mattern. "Ettima's capture provides a sense of security to the community and brings closure to the victim's family."

Nearly 110,000 fugitive felons were apprehended last year by U.S. Marshals task forces, nine of them from the agency's 15 Most Wanted List, the statement said. Four were arrested in Mexico.

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