A woman pleaded not guilty Thursday to kidnapping and murdering a man in Carson in April.

Maricela Mercado, 40, had fled to Mexico and was turned over to U.S. authorities last month. Her teenage daughter, who had been the subject of an Amber Alert, was returned safely to the U.S.

Mercado is expected back in court Sept. 17, when a date is expected to be set for a preliminary hearing for her and her co-defendant Roman Cerratos.

Cerratos, 39, pleaded not guilty in June to one count each of murder, kidnapping and possession of a firearm by a felon. Cerratos faces additional gun and knife allegations.

Cerratos, from Hawaii, also was picked up in Mexico.

If convicted, the pair face potential life prison sentences in the fatal shooting and stabbing of 32-year-old Jeffrey Appel on April 16. Appel’s body was found early that morning in his Audi in the 400 block of East Carson Plaza Drive.

A $10,000 reward had been posted for information leading to the safe recovery of the 15-year-old girl and detectives had said they were concerned for the teen’s safety because of the “extreme violence” used to kill Appel. He had been shot multiple times in the neck and upper body, according to coroner’s records.

Mercado shares custody of her daughter with the girl’s father, whom authorities said had no involvement in the homicide.

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