A man accused in the fatal shooting of his ex-wife last week in Alpine was arraigned Thursday from his hospital bed and pleaded not guilty.
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Justin Meltzer, who underwent surgery Thursday morning, faces 61 years to life in prison if convicted of the counts related to the shooting incident, according to authorities. In addition to murder and the use of a firearm, Meltzer is charged with two counts of assault with a semiautomatic weapon for allegedly threatening neighbors with the gun.
Meltzer, 42, was taken into custody Friday night following a SWAT action at a home on Larkspur Drive.
Deputies had responded about 6:24 p.m. to reports of a man holding a gun to the head of a woman, identified as 40-year-old Deborah Meltzer.
Deputy District Attorney Carlos Campbell said, "A witness heard screaming, heard a fire alarm, approached where he heard it, which was the defendant's house. [The witness] saw the victim near the door of the defendant's residence, handcuffed with a dog leash attached to the handcuffs
She was screaming. She was asking for help. She was saying he has a gun, he's going to shoot me."
The victim was pulled into the home with the man after an exchange of gunfire, authorities said. Justin Meltzer was shot in the leg during the gunfire.
"Sheriff's deputies did respond, they attempted to save her. They were unsuccessful, firing shots. He then dragged the victim into the house. At that time sheriff's deputies did hear several rounds. They went inside and found her with I believe seven shots from a 9mm [handgun] in her chest," Campbell said.
A friend said the victim had taken her two young sons to the home to see their father. The boys were at a neighbor's house when the gunfire erupted.
The suspected shooter's public defender, Dawn Beebee, argued for no bail based on the fact her client did not have a prior record.
However, Judge William McGrath set Justin Meltzer's bail at $2 million. Meltzer remains hospitalized under 24-hour guard by San Diego County sheriff's deputies.
McGrath set a status conference for Jan. 6 and a preliminary hearing for Jan. 12 in El Cajon.
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