SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A 20-year-old man accused of breaking into a Del Cerro home, threatening two women at knifepoint before fatally stabbing one and sexually assaulting the other, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder and other charges that could lead to the death penalty if he's convicted.
Eduardo Torres was ordered held without bail in the torture-death of 74- year-old Ut Nguyen.
Deputy District Attorney Marisa Di Tillio told Judge Frederick Maguire that Torres tried to break into a home about 11 p.m. last Sunday but was chased off by the residents.
Torres allegedly jumped a fence into the next-door neighbor's yard and broke into that home on Mill Peak Road, the prosecutor said.
Nguyen and her son's 50-year-old girlfriend locked themselves in separate bedrooms, and Torres kicked down the door where the older woman was hiding and dragged her down the hall at knifepoint to the bedroom where the other woman was holed up, Di Tillio said.
Torres locked the door behind him, sexually assaulted the 50-year-old woman and fatally stabbed Nguyen, the prosecutor alleged.
During the ordeal, Torres cut the sexual assault victim in an attempt to get SWAT officers to back off, Di Tillio alleged.
Nguyen's 56-year-old son was locked out of his home during the women's ordeal because he had gone to check on his neighbors, the prosecutor said.
A knife was recovered from the home when Torres was arrested, Di Tillio said.
The defendant is charged with murder and special circumstance allegations of murder during a rape, murder during oral copulation, murder during a burglary and murder that involved torture.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has yet to decide whether Torres, who also faces charges of forcible oral copulation, assault during a burglary and torture, will face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted.
A status conference is set for June 29.