Two men accused of killing a 36-year-old Hemet resident during a botched kidnapping pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder and other charges.
Alberto Franco, 24, of Hemet and Christian Anselmo Gomez, 43, of Homeland were arrested the day after the Nov. 2 slaying of the victim, identified in court documents only as “S.C.”
Along with murder, both defendants are charged with assault resulting in great bodily injury and attempted kidnapping, with a sentence-enhancing gun use allegation. Franco is additionally charged with attempted carjacking.
They were jointly arraigned before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Jan. 4 at the Banning Justice Center.
Each defendant is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.
According to Hemet police Lt. Nathan Miller, the duo confronted the victim in an alleyway in the 200 block of East Stetson Avenue about 6:30 p.m. Miller alleged that the pair corralled and pummeled the man before he was able to break free, running to a nearby strip mall, where he sought safety outside a pizza parlor.
“The suspects chased the victim, cornered him … and then one of them shot the victim several times,” the lieutenant alleged.
As witnesses called 911, Franco and Gomez allegedly jumped into a white SUV and sped away. However, moments later, the vehicle slammed into a brick feature outside a residence in the 1400 block of South Palm Avenue, causing the SUV’s engine to stall, according to Miller, adding that the defendants ran away southbound.
He said patrol officers converged on the location and initiated a search for the pair, which ended in the predawn hours the following day, when both were located hiding on Coral Avenue, where they were taken into custody.
A possible motive for the deadly shooting has not been disclosed.
Neither man has documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.
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