Man gets life in prison for fire that killed mom, sister

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SAN DIEGO — A Mira Mesa man who intentionally set a fire in his home that killed his mother and sister and sent a roommate running into the street with just the clothes on his back was sentenced Friday to consecutive terms of life in state prison without parole.

Thongsavath Sphabmixay, 46, was convicted last month of murder and special circumstance allegations of murder by arson and multiple murders in the deaths of 69-year-old Bouakham Sphabmixay and 48-year-old Pamela Sphabmixay.

Sphabmixay also was convicted of attempted murder and arson.

Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney told the jury in her closing argument the defendant set the 1:30 a.m. fire on a second-floor loft outside the victims’ bedroom after they had gone to bed on April 4, 2013.

The roommate was able to escape the flames, but Sphabmixay’s mother and sister weren’t able to get out and died a day later of smoke inhalation.

The prosecutor said the defendant made no attempt to save his mother and sister, fled the scene in his car, returned an hour later and was arrested.

A lighter was found in his pocket, gas was found on his clothes, and his DNA was located on a gas can in the burned home, Rooney said.

Defense attorney Richard Gates said law enforcement failed to collect evidence in the case and rushed to a judgment that Sphabmixay set the fire.

Gates said police didn’t collect the roommate’s clothing or check whether Pamela Sphabmixay — a diagnosed schizophrenic — was taking her medication.

The male roommate testified that Sphabmixay argued often with the victims, but they spoke a different language so he didn’t know what they were saying.


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