A man accused of fatally shooting his 18-year-old pregnant girlfriend and their unborn baby, then fleeing to Mexico, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a pair of murder charges.
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Ruben Anthony Cepeda, 21, a documented gang member from Poway, was ordered held on $5 million bail.
Cepeda is suspected of killing Viridiana Rodriguez and the couple's 4 1/2-month-old male fetus the night of April 7.
Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe said Cepeda and fellow gang member Jesse Juan Lopez were moving into a new apartment in Escondido when the shooting occurred.
Two of the victim's sisters, who were helping with the move, heard talking and a gunshot in a room where Cepeda and the victim were, Watanabe said.
When the sisters entered the room, Cepeda was facing the victim, who had a gunshot wound to the stomach, according to the prosecutor.
Cepeda told the sisters "it was an accident," and Lopez picked up a gun off the floor with a shirt he had taken off, Watanabe said.
The defendants fled, leaving the sisters to call 911, according to the prosecutor.
Viridiana Rodriguez and her unborn child died about an hour later at a hospital.
Lopez was detained in his car at the Otay Mesa Border Crossing and a man thought to be Cepeda was seen running from Lopez's car into Mexico, Watanabe said.
Border officials released Lopez, but he was charged two weeks later with being an accessory after the fact.
Cepeda was stopped in Tijuana early Monday and turned over to U.S. authorities. He faces 150 years to life in prison if convicted.
Lopez faces seven years behind bars if convicted.
A readiness conference is set June 21 and a preliminary hearing for June 26.
After the hearing, two sisters of the victim told reporters that justice is in the hands of God.
Yemely Rodriguez said she wanted to ask one question of Cepeda.
"Why did he leave my sister the way he did?" she said. "I just wish that they would have helped us out at that moment. I'm sure she would have been alive if they would have helped us and rushed her to the hospital."
Another sister, Elianne Guerrero who was not at the apartment complex that night remembered the defendant as someone she had liked.
"He was a nice person," said Guerrero. "He was sweet to my sister and I had actually told him to take care of her."
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