Neighbor pleads not guilty to killing Rancho Bernardo woman - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Neighbor pleads not guilty to killing Rancho Bernardo woman

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(CNS) - A neighbor accused of attacking and stabbing a 28-year-old woman in her Rancho Bernardo apartment as she talked on the phone with her mother pleaded not guilty today to a murder charge.

Richard Saldivar, 40, was ordered held on $2 million bail.

Deputy District Attorney Kristen Spieler told Judge David Szumowski that the defendant had recently moved into an apartment on Avenida Venusto, directly across from the victim.

Saldivar was home alone last Thursday afternoon when Jones returned home from work, the prosecutor said.

While her back was turned, Saldivar allegedly entered the victim's apartment and stabbed her multiple times, Spieler said.

"This was a completely unprovoked ambush," the prosecutor told the judge, "on a person he barely knew."

The victim's mother told police that while she was talking on the phone with her daughter, she heard a man's voice, followed by screeching or a yelling sound. The woman then lost contact with her daughter.

She tried to call her back but was unsuccessful, so she contacted San Diego police.

Saldivar had fresh cuts on his hands and scratches on his arms consistent with the attack when he was arrested Saturday, Spieler said.

A search of the defendant's apartment -- 20 feet away from the victim's residence -- turned up physical evidence in the case, the prosecutor said.

She said Saldivar was unemployed and had been served with an eviction notice on the day of the murder.

A motive was not disclosed, although police have said they have one.

Ken Chernish, a friend of the Jones family, spoke on their behalf outside the courtroom.

"They're deeply grieved. They're dealing with this as best that they can, but they certainly appreciate their privacy as they grieve," Chernish said.

"They're surrounded by a lot of friends, and due mainly with their deep relationship with their God Jehovah and also with their close relationship with their friends that are surrounding them, they're seeming to get through a terrible ordeal," he added. "They are dealing with it well, in my estimation. But they're devastated. There's no doubt about that."

Jones was a devout Jehovah's Witness who moved into the Rancho Bernardo area about 2 1/2 years ago from Ohio, according to Chernish, who said he was also a member of the church's Bernardo Heights congregation.

He recalled the victim as "a delightful young lady" who "always has a smile on her face."

The hope to someday see Jones again in the future -- part of the family's religious faith -- is getting them through the loss of their daughter, Chernish said.

The victim's parents, who live in Ohio, and other family and friends attended today's arraignment.

Saldivar faces 26 years to life behind bars if convicted of murder and the use of a knife.

A status conference was set for Nov. 5 and a preliminary hearing for Nov. 9.

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