HUNTINGTON BEACH — As authorities prepared Sunday to lodge murder charges against him, a former Garden Grove man who allegedly shot his ex-girlfriend to death and then set himself on fire over the weekend was given a "50-50" chance at survival.
With third-degree burns over much of his body, 29-year-old Brian Keith Framstead was in "very critical condition" Sunday night in the burn unit of the San Bernardino County Medical Center after dousing himself with gasoline in his car near Victorville while police chased him, officials said.
Police at the hospital kept a close watch on the only suspect in the grisly Friday night shooting in Huntington Beach of 19-year-old Tammie Marie Davis. Framstead's mother, meanwhile, waited with relatives in hopes of seeing her son.
Doctors "told me I could see him because he could go either way," the mother said. Looking drawn and tired and sobbing occasionally, she eventually saw Framstead for a few minutes but refused comment on the bizarre series of events.
Sgt. Warren Nobles of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said: "The doctors told us he had a 50-50 chance."
Framstead's precarious physical condition took center stage Sunday as authorities in Orange and San Bernardino counties continued to try to piece together the weekend's sudden violence over a romance gone sour.
Huntington Beach police believe that Framstead, upset with the breakup of his relationship with Davis nine months ago, had persistently harassed her and, late Friday, shot her to death on the 15200 block of Rushmoor Lane shortly after she had left a nearby Bob's Big Boy restaurant. She was a waitress there.
Screaming, "Help me, help me!" Davis banged on a stranger's door just seconds before she was shot at close range. A shotgun thought to be the murder weapon later was found nearby in a flower bed.
Framstead was reportedly under a court order to stay away from Davis and was to have begun a six-month jail term Sunday night in Theo Lacy Branch Jail for threatening her with a gun. Davis' brother said Framstead would not leave her alone.
The two had lived together in a Garden Grove mobile home until last year, but the relationship was a stormy one with frequent fighting and yelling, neighbors and relatives said. The two had a 21-month-old daughter who police said is now staying with Davis' relatives.
Framstead's scheduled stint in jail "might have been what initiated" the shooting, Huntington Beach Police Lt. Ed McErlain said at a press conference Sunday.
Even before Framstead set himself on fire Saturday night, police had identified him as the only suspect in Davis' slaying. But McErlain refused to say what physical evidence or testimony linked him to the crime, beyond the history of reported harassment. There are no known witnesses.
McErlain said murder charges are likely to be filed today after police consult with the district attorney's office.
But homicide investigators have been unable to interview the suspect. Investigators traveled Saturday night to the San Bernardino hospital in hopes of talking with Framstead, but "he was not capable of speaking," McErlain said.
An occasional construction worker who was last known to be living in Inglewood, Framstead was first spotted after the killing on Wild Wash Road between Barstow and Victorville on Saturday afternoon, authorities said.
Two rangers with the federal Bureau of Land Management wondered what Framstead's car was doing parked in the remote area and stopped to talk to him, according to Sgt. Jerry Wheeler of the California Highway Patrol's Victorville station.
"Framstead told them everything was OK, nothing to worry about," Wheeler recounted.
Because of a failure in the computer system, it was not until a few hours later that the agents found out that Framstead was wanted on suspicion of a fatal shooting in Huntington Beach. They then spotted him going south on Interstate 15 and contacted the Highway Patrol, Wheeler said.
Officers followed Framstead for a few minutes on the freeway near Victorville, as the suspect slowed down but refused to stop, eventually exiting at the Stoddard Wells off-ramp. He led officers around a Denny's parking lot and allegedly tried to ram one CHP car just before his own car burst into flames.
Times staff writer Rose Ellen O'Connor contributed to this story.