A young woman, her parolee father and a third defendant charged with the murder of a 29-year-old man found fatally injured in a Cathedral City park last month entered not guilty pleas Thursday.
Rena Lizette Alaniz, 20, of Thousand Palms, was arraigned along with her father, Carlos Antonio Ruiz, 40, of La Quinta and Andres Moreno, 18, of Cathedral City via video conference before Superior Court Judge Alfonso Fernandez at the Banning Justice Center.
The judge scheduled an Sept. 15 felony settlement conference for all three defendants, and set bail for Alaniz and Moreno at $1 million, while denying bond for Ruiz.
They were arrested last week in connection with the Aug. 6 death of Ruben Argentis Mujica of Palm Desert.
All three defendants are charged with murder, and Ruiz also faces a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait, which makes him eligible for the death penalty if prosecutors choose to pursue it.
According to Cathedral City Police Department Cmdr. Paul Herrera, officers were sent to Century Park on Davall Drive about 9:20 p.m. on Aug. 6 in response to a report of a fight and found Mujica suffering from life-threatening injuries. He was rushed to an area hospital, but doctors were unable to save him.
After taking over the case, homicide detectives began honing in on the father-daughter duo, according to police, who did not specify a motive for the killing, nor did they elaborate on Moreno’s alleged role.
“Through a very detailed and thorough investigation, Cathedral City detectives linked the victim to the suspects through various types of evidence and statements,” according to a police statement.
Ruiz is a convicted felon who was on parole at the time of his arrest, police said. He was convicted in 2004 of voluntary manslaughter in Riverside County and also has three felony burglary convictions, court records show.
The other two defendants do not have any documented felony convictions in Riverside County.