Jury in a Courtroom - Photo courtesy of Pixabay

A jury was seated Wednesday for the trial of a Palm Desert woman accused of hitting her sister over the head with a mallet and trying to run over her mother during an altercation at their home.

Erin Leah Richey, 43, is charged with two counts each of attempted murder, assault and animal cruelty, as well as one count of auto theft, arson and being in possession of an explosive device in connection with the 2018 attack in the 77500 block of Mountain View Avenue.

Jury selection began last week at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, and Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dean Benjamini swore in a panel by early afternoon Wednesday. The trial’s first witnesses are slated to be called Thursday morning.

The defendant, who is being held in lieu of $2 million bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, could face life in prison if convicted.

According to sheriff’s investigators, on Dec. 15, 2018, Richey struck her sister, whose identity was not released, on the head with a mallet “numerous times” and also attempted to slash her with a knife during an unspecified confrontation.

The defendant then took one of the victim’s vehicles, and as she was speeding away, attempted to run over her mother, also not identified, who owned the property where Richey was staying in a trailer, investigators allege.

The sister was hospitalized with non-life-threatening head injuries, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. The mother was not hurt.

Richey was arrested later that day while driving along Avenida Caballeros in Palm Springs.

The arson charge stems from an attack reported two days earlier in the 77330 block of Missouri Drive in Palm Desert, where Richey allegedly set fire to a carport, causing burn injuries to a woman residing at the location, according to testimony from a 2020 preliminary hearing.

The animal abuse charges were filed because the defendant allegedly set her cat, Mabel, on fire and sprayed ant and roach killer into her mother’s dog’s eyes before throwing the dog over an eight-foot wall, according to prosecutors.

Court records show Richey has prior convictions for assault and driving under the influence, both misdemeanors.

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