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Man accused of killing grandmother captured in Mexico

April 15, 2009 |  6:00 am

Ettima A man wanted by the U.S. Marshals Service for allegedly killing his grandmother and setting fire to her body and her home has been captured in Mexico City and returned to the United States, authorities said early Wednesday.

Joseph Elias George Ettima, 26, had a long and violent criminal history that earned him a spot on the federal agency's 15 most-wanted list. He served most of his adult life in state prison for robbery, weapons possession, manufacturing of weapons, battery and indecent exposure.

Authorities allege Ettima was at the home of his 69-year-old maternal grandmother, Emma Louise Hardwick-Street on Jan. 19 when he flew into a rage, fatally stabbed her and set fire to her body and her Los Alamitos apartment.

Ettima's 8-year-old brother and 3-year-old niece witnessed the killing but later were found unharmed by police.

Ettima fled to Tijuana, Mexico, immediately after the killing and then made his way to the southern state of Chiapas, said Bert Tapia, a supervisory deputy with the Pacific Southwest Regional Fugitive Task Force.

Authorities describe Ettima as a chameleon who was aided by his fluency in several languages, including English, Spanish, Swahili and Caribbean dialects. He also used several aliases, including Jamal Harris, Yusuf Ettima, Yusef Ettima, Yusuf Eligha and Cuba.

Ettima was homeless during his stay in southern Mexico, where he was eventually intercepted by local immigration authorities. He told them he was a citizen of Belize.

He later claimed to be from Nigeria. And at one point, his strong grasp of Spanish led Mexican authorities to believe he was of Cuban descent. Immigration authorities later moved Ettima to Mexico City after he was accused of setting fire to a cellmate.

It was eventually determined that Ettima was wanted in the U.S., and Mexican authorities working with the marshal's service deported him to Los Angeles, where he arrived late Tuesday night.

--Andrew Blankstein

Photo: U.S. Marshals Service