A 20-year-old man accused of stabbing two partygoers, one fatally, during an altercation involving a mass of people gathered in the Santa Ana River bottom in Riverside pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder and other charges.
Raul Sanchez of Rialto was arrested last month following a month-long investigation into the Feb. 28 slaying of 19-year-old Raul Saldana beneath a Pomona (60) Freeway overpass.
Along with murder, Sanchez is charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon resulting in great bodily injury.
He was arraigned before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gail O’Rane, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for July 14 at the Riverside Hall of Justice and left his bail at $1 million.
The defendant is being held at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
According to Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback, an outdoor party involving “thousands of people” in the river bottom was underway when a fight erupted in the predawn hours.
Railsback alleged that Sanchez was in the middle of it and pulled a knife, inflicting mortal wounds on Saldana, as well as stabbing another man several times.
The partygoers dispersed immediately afterward, and both Saldana and the other victim, whose name was withheld, were driven by friends to Riverside Community Hospital.
Saldana died in the emergency room, while the second victim underwent surgery and survived.
Over the next three weeks, homicide detectives gathered statements and obtained additional evidence that ultimately pointed to Sanchez as the alleged perpetrator, according to Railsback.
The defendant was taken into custody without incident on March 25 in Rialto, after which the Saldana family released a statement thanking Riverside police and expressing confidence that the arrest would “bring us closer to getting justice for Raul.”
The precise cause of the brawl under the freeway bridge remains under investigation.
Sanchez has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.