Lara Epstein, 51, has been dealing with mental health issues, according to her family, and there was tension between Epstein and her mother, Svetlana Gurinova, said Deputy District Attorney Scott Pirrello.
Gurinova had moved into the Carmel Valley home recently, according to the prosecutor.
On June 16, while other family members were out of town, the defendant called to say there was some kind of problem, Pirrello told Judge David Szumowski.
Police were called about 10:30 p.m. and found the victim on the laundry room floor. Pirrello said Gurinova had stab wounds to the head, neck and chest and had been severely beaten. The prosecutor said plastic bags were covering the victim's head and feet, and there was an effort to clean up the scene.
The knife and meat tenderizer -- believed to have been used in the killing -- were found in the home, Pirrello said.
Epstein, who at times made "rambling'' statements to police, was arrested at the scene.
The defendant -- who was born in Russia but is a U.S. citizen -- will be back in court July 1 for a status conference. A preliminary hearing is set for July 7.
Epstein faces 26 years to life in prison if convicted.