A 26-year-old Reseda man accused of fatally burning his mother was ordered to stand trial Monday afternoon at the San Fernando courthouse.
There was “overwhelming evidence" to try Phillip Chang on charges alleging that he attacked his sleeping mother with a makeshift blowtorch and chased her as she tried to flee, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Hayden Zacky said during a preliminary hearing.
Chang faces one count each of attempted murder, torture, aggravated mayhem and murder, with special allegations of lying in wait, mayhem and torture.
According to authorities, Chang arrived unannounced at his 59-year-old mother’s home in Sylmar the night of Aug. 24, 2012.
His mother, Heunae Chang, did not want him in the house but allowed him to spend the night after he insisted, authorities said.
Phillip Chang lay in bed for about three hours before he went to his car to retrieve a bottle of WD-40 and a cigarette lighter, Det. Steven Eguchi of the Los Angeles Police Department said during the hearing.
Chang is accused of going upstairs to his mother’s room and using the lighter and WD-40 to create a makeshift blowtorch.
His mother awoke and ran away, but Chang chased her, according to Eguchi. The detective said Chang struck his mother twice in the face during the pursuit.
Daniel Gaytan, a Los Angeles Fire Department arson investigator, said he found evidence indicating that a blowtorch was used, including soot on the carpet and melted patio furniture in the backyard. Authorities said blood and burned skin were found at the scene.
At the time of the incident, Chang said he was seeing a psychiatrist and was taking medication, including Adderall.
Attorney Melvin Betnun, who represents Chang, said investigators failed to interview his client’s psychiatrist and did not conduct tests to confirm that blood and burned skin were found at the scene.
Chang is accused of chasing his mother into the backyard patio, where her screams woke startled neighbors.
Neighbors testified Monday that they saw Chang standing over his mother in the patio and yelling, “Tell me his name! Just give me his name!” as he blasted her with intermittent flames.
Neighbor Gina Belyeu said she saw the mother “totally engulfed in flames.”
Another neighbor, Lamar Shamburger, said the victim raised her hands and pleaded for her son to stop.
“I’m dying. Get me help,” Shamburger recalled her saying.
Eguchi, the police detective, testified that Chang believed his mother was poisoning him and his father, which Chang thought caused him insomnia and high blood pressure and his father pancreatic cancer.
Chang’s father did not have pancreatic cancer, according to authorities.
During the hearing, Chang’s father sat a few feet behind his son and was writing in a notepad. At one point, Chang stared at him for several seconds.
As authorities detailed the allegations, Chang’s sister walked out of the courtroom.
Zacky ordered Chang held on no bail. He is scheduled for another court hearing Dec. 19.