Man accused of lighting mother on fire pleads not guilty

A 26-year-old man accused of fatally burning his mother pleaded not guilty Thursday in a San Fernando courtroom to murder, torture, aggravated mayhem and other charges.

Prosecutors allege Phillip Chang attacked his sleeping mother in her bedroom in August 2012 with a cigarette lighter held next to a bottle of WD-40. He then chased her with the self-made blowtorch as she ran downstairs and into the backyard of her Sylmar home, they said.

Los Angeles police arrested Chang at the scene. His mother, Heunae Chang, 59, died in a hospital five days later because of “blunt force trauma and thermal injuries,” according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office.


The incident happened about 4 a.m. and Heunae Chang’s screams awoke neighbors, police said. Witnesses recalled Heunae Chang yelling for help while covered by flames.

A judge ordered Phillip Chang earlier this month to stand trial on charges of attempted murder, torture, aggravated mayhem and murder, with special allegations of lying in wait, mayhem and torture.

Los Angeles Police Det. Steven Eguchi testified during a preliminary hearing that Chang believed his mother was poisoning him and his father.

Chang thought the suspected poisoning led him to suffer from insomnia and high blood pressure and his father to develop pancreatic cancer, authorities said.

Jin Chang did not have pancreatic cancer, officials said. Phillip Chang was taking Adderall, among other medications, and seeing a psychiatrist at the time.

A pretrial conference is scheduled for Jan. 27.


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