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 hit-and-run and assault with a deadly weapon charges.
Marco Antonio Gutierrez, 29, faces eight years in prison if convicted.
Gutierrez came to court out of custody after posting $50,000 bail, but was taken back to jail when his bail was increased to $250,000.
He was allegedly behind the wheel when Jasmine Ruiz was run over April 20. Prosecutors theorize that the victim was dead or near death after being stabbed in the jugular vein, allegedly by co-defendant Christina Daniel.
Daniel, 32, was charged with murder last week and ordered held without bail in the 29-year-old victim's death.
Deputy District Attorney David Bost said at Daniel's arraignment that she is on parole for a 2007 carjacking, and has also been 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.
Detectives have not determined a motive for the fatal assault. 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, San Diego police Lt. Manny Del Toro said.
It is "quite possible" Ruiz was run over by the vehicle as a means of preventing her from getting away after being knifed, he said.
Bost said police initially thought Ruiz was the victim of a hit-and-run. 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.
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.
The defendants will be back in court May 25 for a readiness conference.