A judge Monday ordered a psychiatric evaluation to determine the mental competency of a 20-year-old probationer accused of fatally beating a 78-year-old Riverside woman during a home invasion robbery.

Sixto Jesus Garcia Pena of Palm Springs was arrested last January following a Riverside police investigation into the slaying of Denise Irene Wong.

Pena is charged with first-degree murder and special circumstance allegations of killing in the commission of a robbery, killing in the commission of a burglary and inflicting torture.

During a status hearing before Riverside County Superior Court Judge John Molloy, Pena’s attorney, Richard Carnero, submitted a motion requesting mental health examinations before a trial date is set for his client. Molloy ruled in favor of the motion and scheduled a hearing for Thursday at the Riverside Hall of Justice to appoint the doctors who will handle the process.

Pena is being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.

The defendant was located in mid-January 2021 at the Imperial County Jail, where he was awaiting adjudication of an unrelated attempted vehicle theft case, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Riverside police detectives served an arrest warrant there, then transferred him to the downtown Riverside jail.

According to Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback, Pena allegedly killed Wong in her single-story house in the 1200 block of East Manfield Street, near Masters Avenue, on Jan. 6 of last year.

“Denise was a loving mother, grandmother, sister, friend and a good and kind person,” police Chief Larry Gonzalez said after Pena’s arrest.

The victim had been a resident of the city for five decades.

Patrol officers were called to Wong’s home that evening after her loved ones requested a welfare check because she hadn’t responded to phone calls. She was found dead from injuries inflicted a few hours earlier, Railsback said.

He alleged Pena accessed the residence by breaking out a rear window.

“Officers observed some items … out of place and consistent with a burglary,” Railsback said, adding that the victim’s car had been stolen.

Detectives confirmed the sedan was involved in a hit-and-run collision in Indio a few hours after the alleged break-in.

Indio police impounded the abandoned vehicle, and homicide investigators went to the impound yard, collecting evidence from the car that helped them identify Pena as the alleged assailant, Railsback said.

According to court records, the defendant has prior convictions for child abuse, auto theft and receiving stolen property.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.