UCLA. Photo by John Schreiber.

A Santa Monica ex-con pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that he carjacked and kidnapped at gunpoint a husband who was waiting for his wife outside the UCLA Public Health Building last fall.

The victim was forced into the vehicle’s trunk where he was trapped during a terrifying six-hour drive. He was finally released in a rural part of northern Los Angeles County and hiked 90 minutes to a freeway call box in a desperate bid for help.

Jason Levi Garza, 43, is charged with one count each of kidnapping for carjacking, carjacking with a firearm, kidnapping, criminal threats and assault with a firearm, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Garza allegedly kidnapped the man at gunpoint last Oct. 3, ordered him to drive to another location and then forced the man into the vehicle’s trunk, according to Deputy District Attorney Maria Ghobadi. Garza then drove around for more than six hours before releasing the man in a desolate area of Castaic, according to testimony presented at a June 28 hearing in which he was ordered to stand trial.

Garza was arrested 10 days later by the UCLA Police Department and has remained behind bars since then, according to jail records. He is due back at the Airport courthouse Aug. 10 for a pretrial hearing.

If convicted as charged, he could face up to life in prison with the possibility of parole, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors say Garza was convicted in 2011 of second-degree robbery.

There was no word from authorities about the reason the kidnap victim and his wife were at UCLA, their ages or identities.

— Staff and wire reports

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