An ex-con accused of stabbing his wife with a screwdriver in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant in Blythe, then fleeing across the state line in to Arizona, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a murder charge.

Troy Elliot Washington, 49, of Santa Paula in Ventura County, is accused of killing 43-year-old Diane Washington, who was stabbed several times in the chest just before 8 p.m. on July 27. She died about an hour later at Blythe’s Palo Verde Hospital.

When approached by bystanders shortly after the stabbing, Washington fled in a black 2016 Chrysler 200, which police found parked at a gas station in Ehrenberg, Arizona, around 6 the following morning, according to an arrest warrant declaration. A La Paz County sheriff’s deputy spotted Washington in the parking lot, wearing shorts with blood on them, though the rest of his clothes had been changed, the declaration states.

Washington told investigators that he had married his wife while incarcerated for an unspecified offense, and that he’d been released from prison about a month prior to the stabbing, according to the document

A prior strike allegation in the criminal complaint says that Washington was convicted of robbery in 1992 in Los Angeles County.

The arrest warrant declaration alleges that the defendant and his wife got into “a heated argument at the McDonald’s parking lot,” and he “stabbed Diane to get her to be quiet, but she continued to scream, so he continued to stab her hoping she would stop screaming.”

The nature of the argument was unknown, but a Blythe Police Department statement says “it appears that Washington and the victim were in an unstable relationship.”

Multiple McDonald’s employees and patrons witnessed the altercation and stabbing, and the attack was also captured on surveillance footage from the restaurant, according to the declaration.

Washington, who’s being held in lieu of $2 million bail, was booked into a La Paz County jail, then transported to the Riverside County jail in Blythe last Friday, according to county jail records.

He will next appear at the Indio courthouse on Aug. 15 for a felony settlement conference.

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