SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man accused of stabbing his father-in-law to death during a fight at a Fourth of July backyard party in Logan Heights pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a murder charge.

Joseph Henry Garcia, 22, was ordered held on $850,000 bail.

Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Zipp alleged that Garcia stabbed Hermeneglido Parra 40 times before fleeing with several family members across the U.S.-Mexico border. Garcia returned to the United States the next day and was apprehended, the prosecutor said.

She said one of the stab wounds hit the victim's spine, paralyzing his arms. There were no defensive wounds on the 54-year-old victim, Zipp said.

Garcia's attorney, Joel Golden, told Judge Jay Bloom that he didn't think the evidence would support a first-degree murder conviction.

Officers responding to a 911 call went to the 3100 block of National Avenue, near Memorial Park and east of Barrio Logan, shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday. They found an unconscious Parra with multiple upper body stab wounds.

Paramedics rushed to the scene, but Parra was pronounced dead a short time later, SDPD Lt. Paul Rorrison said.

Garcia faces 26 years to life in prison if convicted.

A readiness conference was scheduled for July 17 and a preliminary hearing for July 21.