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Crime News Breaking News

California Man Accused In Ice Pick Killing Of Crush Deemed Competent To Stand Trial

Daniel Gunnarsson, 21, who allegedly killed Kathryn Pham over his feelings of unrequited love, was previously “not responsive at all” to his lawyers, his public defender had said.

By Dorian Geiger
Katie Pham

A California man who allegedly killed and mutilated a 21-year-old woman last year after she reportedly rejected his romantic advances has been found competent to stand trial in the brutal killing, according to reports.

Daniel Gunnarsson, 21, was found competent on Tuesday by Superior Court Judge Chad Louie to stand trial in the 2021 murder of Kathryn Pham after receiving psychiatric treatment at a state hospital, prosecutors said. 

Louie reportedly analyzed a number of factors in deeming Gunnarsson competent, including medical reports from psychiatrists, whether the 21-year-old understood the charges he’s facing, and whether he’s able to help brief defense counsel on his case.

“After considering reports submitted by doctors regarding the current status, Judge Louie made a finding that the defendant is now presently competent to stand trial, and the court re-initiated the criminal proceedings,” Joseph A. Kinzel, Kern County Assistant District Attorney said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com on Thursday.

On the morning of May 18, 2021, authorities responded to Gunnarrsson’s stepfather’s home in the 900 block of Skylark Avenue in Ridgecrest. Deputies found Pham in an RV garage on the property with significant injuries to the back of her head and other parts of her body. She was pronounced dead on scene. 

Gunnarsson, who was covered in blood, was arrested on site by deputies. His clothes were “saturated” in blood, Bakersfield television station KGET-TV reported, citing court documents. He allegedly told responding deputies “I killed her.”

The 21-year-old man’s stepfather later divulged to investigators that Gunnarsson and Pham had been dating for a brief period. On the morning of Pham’s killing, he said his stepson admitted he and his girlfriend had broken up. Gunnarsson’s step aunt also saw him and Pham together shortly before the suspected murder.

When questioned about the nature of Pham’s injuries to her head, he responded, “I don’t know, I must have bashed it in.” An icepick was used in the violent attack, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com.

Prior to Pham’s slaying, friends told detectives that Gunnarsson had become distraught after learning the romantic feelings he felt for her weren’t mutual, court documents stated.  

Prosecutors later charged Gunnarsson with first-degree murder and mutilation of a corpse.

Gunnarsson was previously been deemed incompetent to stand trial in August. His then-public defender Pam Singh told the court her client was “not responsive at all.”

Gunnarrsson is currently being held without bail at a Kern County detention facility, pending his trial, according to online jail records obtained by Oxygen.com

“Without commenting on the specifics of the defense at this time, Ms. Pham's death is a tragic loss, but we are hoping the public will hold back their judgment until an objective, fair and honest review of all the evidence is completed and presented,” the officer for the Kern County Public Defender said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com. “There's a lot to this case.”  

Mark Aguilar, Gunnarsson’s public defender, wasn’t immediately available for direct comment on Thursday afternoon. 

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on April 1 at the Kern County Superior Court, according to prosecutors. If convicted in Pham's murder, Gunnarsson faces a maximum punishment of life in prison.

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