Arson suspect pleads not guilty to murdering mother, sister

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A man accused of intentionally setting a fire in his
Mira Mesa home, killing his mother and sister, pleaded not guilty Monday to
murder and other charges that could lead to the death penalty if he's

Thongsavath Sphabmixay, 44, was ordered held without bail in the deaths
last Friday of 69-year-old Bouakham Sphabmixay and his sister, 48-year-old
Pamela Sphabmixay. The women died a day after they were overcome by smoke in
the fire at the family's home in the 11200 block of Featherhill Lane.

The defendant lived at the residence with the victims and a male roommate.

About 1:30 a.m. last Thursday, the roommate noticed the smell of
gasoline outside his bedroom door, said Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney.

“He (the roommate) opened his door and noticed the landing was on fire,
which was blocking the only exit to the stairs out of the second story,” the
prosecutor told reporters.

Rooney said the roommate was able to go through the flames and jump down
to a lower landing to escape.

As he was leaving, the roommate heard the victims — who shared a
bedroom — open their door, scream and shut the door, according to the

Rooney said the roommate called for help to the defendant — who was
still in the house — but he fled the scene.

She said the roommate went across the street to get help and tried to go
back in the house to rescue the victims, but was unable to do so because the
smoke was so heavy.

When contacted by police, the defendant initially gave them his
brother's name, Rooney said.

In addition to two counts of murder, the defendant is charged with
charged with premeditated attempted murder and arson, with special circumstance
allegations of multiple murders and murder by arson.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis will decide later whether the defendant
will face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if he's convicted.

A status conference is scheduled for Wednesday and a preliminary hearing
for April 19.

Categories: KUSI