A 27-year-old man accused in the stabbing death of a fellow passenger on a Montebello Public Transit bus in East Los Angeles in April pleaded not guilty Thursday to a murder charge.
Manuel Ortiz Jr. of Montebello was initially charged with attempted murder and aggravated mayhem in connection with the April 9 stabbing, but the criminal complaint was amended after the 22-year-old man — identified by the coroner’s office as Austin Angelo Zavala of Whittier — died Sunday at a hospital.
The murder charge includes a knife use allegation, along with allegations that Ortiz has convictions in four prior cases dating back to 2014.
The victim was stabbed multiple times in the neck and head aboard the bus at a bus stop on Whittier Boulevard and Gerhart Avenue, according to Deputy District Attorney Christina Lutz. Authorities have not disclosed a motive for the stabbing.
Ortiz was arrested April 12 by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and has remained behind bars since then, according to jail records.
He is due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom July 26, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to require him to stand trial.
If convicted as charged, Ortiz could face up to 30 years to life in state prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.