Man accused of girlfriend's murder will undergo mental competency trial

INDIO, Calif. - An Indio man accused of killing his girlfriend and setting fire to the Thermal mobile home she shared with her children will undergo a mental competency trial next month, to determine if he will faces charges that include murder, arson, assault and animal cruelty, a judge ruled Friday.

Christian Pacheco, 23, is accused in the death of 30-year-old Elilia Valdez, a mother of two.

Valdez's body was found on March 18 in the area of 63700 Monroe Street, about six hours after sheriff's deputies found her mobile home ablaze.

Read: Family identifies woman murdered in Thermal

No one was inside the mobile home, but "information obtained from witnesses indicated that a domestic violence incident may have occurred between an adult female resident and her boyfriend before the home was set on fire,'' said Riverside County sheriff's Sgt. Raymond Huskey.

Deputies located Pacheco at 12:45 p.m. in the 51700 block of Calle Torres Orduno in Coachella, the sergeant said.

According to a criminal complaint, a knife was used in Valdez's murder, and Pacheco is also accused of committing an assault with a deadly weapon -- a vehicle -- on a man and animal cruelty on a dog, also while wielding a knife.

Read: Family of murdered single mother speaks out

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dean Benjamini suspended criminal proceedings this summer, pending the results of a psychologist's examination.

On Friday, a trial to determine whether Pacheco is competent to stand trial was tentatively set for Jan. 22. A hearing will also be held Jan. 8, at which time scheduling and other matters regarding the competency trial will be fleshed out.

In order to be considered incompetent to stand trial, it must be shown that a defendant does not understand the nature of the criminal proceedings against him and cannot assist his attorney in his defense.

Pacheco remains in custody on $1 million bail.

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