A parolee who allegedly beat and stabbed a woman to death, then set her Winchester home aflame, must stand trial for murder and other charges, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Following a preliminary hearing at the Murrieta courthouse, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer found there was sufficient evidence to bound Lillard over for trial on charges of first-degree murder, arson and burglary.
Freer scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment in the case for Jan. 14 and left Lillard's bail set at $1 million. The 51-year-old defendant is being held at the Southwest Detention Center.
According to prosecutors, Lillard met Kissinger after he was released from county jail, where he had been serving time for parole violations. Lillard had shared a cell with the victim's 25-year-old son, Kevin Foster, prosecutors said.
Foster told sheriff's investigators that he recommended Lillard contact his mother, who had a spare room to rent at her single-story house in the 33600 block of El Centro Lane.
The defendant was not able to rent a room because Kissinger had a child who lived on the property part-time, and Lillard was a convicted sex offender whose parole terms prohibited him from being in the presence of kids, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Lillard moved back into his parents' Menifee home but began a roughly weeklong "relationship" with Kissinger, said Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Garcia.
"He was staying with his parents and getting rides over to the victim's home," Garcia told City News Service.
The prosecutor alleged that in the predawn hours of Sept. 4, one of Kissinger's neighbors noticed Lillard walking around her house with a gas can. A short time later, a fire broke out in the residence.
Riverside County firefighters arrived within minutes and knocked down the flames, after which they discovered the victim's body.
During today's hearing, investigators testified that an autopsy showed Kissinger suffered blunt force trauma to the head and five stab wounds to the back. She was dead before the fire started.
Her child was not there at the time.
According to Garcia, detectives identified Lillard as a suspect and went to his parents' home the following day to question him.
"Mr. Lillard basically told the investigators that he and the victim got along famously," the prosecutor said. "He said that when he left the house, everything was fine."
Garcia said that as investigators spoke with Lillard, they noticed he "reeked of gasoline."
"There was evidence that flames actually lit onto his clothes," Garcia said.
The defendant was arrested without incident.
Garcia said he was wearing an ankle-mounted GPS tracking device as part of his parole. Satellite data gathered from the instrument placed Lillard at the scene of the crime at the time the fire was ignited, according to the prosecution.
The two-strike felon could face more than 50 years to life in prison if convicted.
According to court records, Lillard has prior convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, battery and failure to register as a sex offender.
—City News Service