A La Quinta resident accused in the death of a 20-year-old man whose body was found in the open desert of Desert Hot Springs pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a murder charge.

Jose Manuel Angel Arellano, 21, was arrested last Thursday on suspicion of killing David Joaquin Murrieta of Desert Hot Springs.

Arellano was arraigned at the Banning Justice Center before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Alfonso Fernandez, who set the defendant’s bail at $1 million and scheduled a felony settlement conference for March 4 at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

Arellano remains in custody at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

Riverside County sheriff’s Sgt. Rick Espinoza said deputies from the Palm Desert sheriff’s station investigating an ongoing missing person case discovered human remains — later confirmed to be that of the victim — on Jan. 21 in the area of Mission Lakes Boulevard and Little Morongo Road.

According to court papers, Murrieta was killed on or around Jan. 14. How he died was unclear.

Arellano does not have any documented felony convictions in Riverside County.

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