Woman accused in alley death pleads not guilty

Posted at 5:19 AM, May 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-09 21:11:34-04

A suspected gang associate accused of taking part in an assault that left a woman fatally injured underneath an abandoned car in a City Heights alley last month pleaded not guilty Monday to a murder charge.

Christina Daniel, 32, was ordered held without bail in the death of National City resident Jasmine Ruiz.

Deputy District Attorney David Bost told Judge David Szumowski that police initially thought Ruiz was the victim of a hit-and-run on April 20.

A subsequent investigation determined that the victim was stabbed in the jugular vein, probably while she was in a car that she had borrowed, then was run over and dragged about 15 to 20 feet, the prosecutor said.

Police said Ruiz had been staying with friends in the area.

A second suspect, 29-year-old Marco Antonio Gutierrez, posted bail and is expected in court on May 16.

"I'm outraged, broken, what she did, what they did in this act," said Ruiz's mother, Lydia Morales. "It's just evil. Pure evil. Everybody in the community should rise up and fight against this type of behavior. Every mother, every father, should be just as devastated as I am. This is totally unacceptable in our community. It has to stop."

Morales said her daughter was a good person who loved her family. The mother said she didn't know Daniel.

Shortly after 10 a.m. on April 20, officers responding to reports of a disturbance and traffic accident in an access road off the 4100 block of Wilson Avenue found Ruiz mortally wounded beneath a damaged and unoccupied 1993 Toyota Camry. She died at the scene.

Witnesses described hearing an argument between several people just prior to the crash and seeing a pair of men and a bloodied woman running out of the area in different directions, Lt. Manny Del Toro said.

An autopsy determined that the 29-year-old victim had been stabbed, and investigators believe Daniel is responsible for that assault, the lieutenant said. Evidence indicates that Gutierrez was behind the wheel of the car that struck and pinned Ruiz, according to Del Toro.

The identity of the second man seen fleeing the alley and his role in the incident remain unknown.

Detectives have not determined a motive for the fatal assault, Del Toro said. Police believe the suspects have gang ties and that the victim did, as well, but investigators do not think those involvements played a direct role in the deadly confrontation, he said.

It is "quite possible" Ruiz was run over by the vehicle as a means of preventing her from getting away after being knifed, Del Toro said.

Bost said Daniel -- who is on parole for a 2007 carjacking -- is also charged in a separate case in the South Bay with stabbing a person in the head and back.

She faces a prison term of 26 years to life -- which could be doubled -- if convicted, Bost said.

A preliminary hearing was set for June 8.