Neighbors say relative accused in SF attorney's murder showed signs of mental illness

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More details are now emerging about the murder of a beloved attorney who used to work in the San Francisco Public Defender's Office.

Marla Zamora was brutally killed Friday and as KTVU first reported Saturday morning, now her grand-nephew Angelo Zamora is being charged with her murder.

KTVU spoke to Marla's friends who say the man accused of killing her is the very person Marla was trying to help.

Police say the 65-year-old prominent lawyer was stabbed to death Friday morning by 19-year-old Angelo Zamora, who was living with her in her Potrero Hill flat.

"She just had that spirit about her she was so dedicated to helping people," said Carmen Aguirre, who worked alongside Zamora in the SF Public Defender's Office for years. One of those people was Angelo, who friends say lately had shown signs of mental illness. Marla's neighbor reported seeing him charge at her in the backyard with an object, which police now say was a knife,

Elina Yegiyan, whose brother Marla represented in a juvenile case, broke down when she received the news of Marla's killing. "I just put my head down and I was just crying really bad," said Yegiyan who accepted Marla as a member of her own family and shared Marla's 64th birthday video with KTVU. "Right away there was a connection and right after that we started inviting her to all the family parties, Christmases, Thanksgivings, birthdays."

"Anybody that Marla represented felt like Marla was their mom, their sister, their best friend; that's the way Marla treated people," said Aguirre. Marla was one of the first women to work in the city's Public Defender's office, according to Aguirre, where she served for nearly 30 years.

"I don't know anyone who was a pioneer like Marla was. Back-to-back trials, and so fearless for her clients and you know her clients' families considered Marla to be family."

One of those clients was Edwin Ramos, charged in a highly publicized case for killing a father and his two sons in 2008 whom he mistook for rival gang members.

"Marla was fearless. Marla didn't care what anybody thought. She was a warrior, " said Aguirre, choking back tears.

"She was amazing, super bright, super funny... it's just wrong to take a beautiful person out of the world like that," said Yegiyan.

Friends say the Zamora family has been ripped apart, they are grieving for Marla and yet shocked by Angelo's arrest. Angelo Zamora is set to be arraigned tomorrow but according to insiders, he's been placed on a psychiatric hold at San Francisco General Hospital. Once his hold his lifted, he will be actually arraigned in court.

Marla Zamora leaves behind a 27 year old daughter Andrea. Memorial services are being planned for sometime next week.

A link has been set up to help Andrea with funeral expenses.