A convicted felon accused of gunning down a tow truck driver who was preparing to take away his vehicle near downtown Riverside re-entered a not guilty plea Tuesday to a murder charge for which he was ordered to stand trial.

Javier Nieto Martinez, 35, of Riverside was arrested in 2019 on suspicion of killing 27-year-old Jesus Eligio Martinez Acosta of Colton.

Following a preliminary hearing on April 6, a judge found there was sufficient evidence to warrant a murder trial and scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment several weeks later.

However, Martinez, who is representing himself, requested several postponements for reasons unclear. He asked for another Tuesday morning, but Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gail O’Rane denied the request, at which point the defendant pleaded not guilty to the murder count.

O’Rane scheduled a pretrial hearing for Oct. 13 at the Riverside Hall of Justice and left Martinez’s bail at $1 million. He’s being held at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.

According to Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback, shortly after 1 p.m. on Oct. 7, 2019, Acosta was contacted by Martinez, who wanted his vehicle taken from the 3700 block of Bandini Avenue to another location.

Railsback alleged that during the process of placing the defendant’s car on the flatbed truck, Martinez became uncooperative and “engaged the victim in an altercation” without provocation. During the ensuing tussle, Martinez allegedly pulled a handgun and shot the tow operator.

Witnesses called 911, and Martinez ran off on foot.

Patrol officers converged on the scene moments later and found Acosta mortally wounded. Riverside Fire Department paramedics attempted life-saving measures, but he was pronounced dead on arrival at Riverside Community Hospital.

Railsback said officers, with the aid of K9 units, began scouring the area, locating Martinez less than 20 minutes later in the area of Brentwood Avenue and Maplewood Place, roughly a half-mile from where the shooting occurred. He was taken into custody without a struggle.

According to court records, the defendant has prior convictions for assault resulting in great bodily injury, spousal abuse and felony vandalism.

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