A man accused of killing a bisexual California college student has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, a hate crime, and a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait, reports Palm Springs TV station KESQ.
Miguel Angel Bautista Ramirez was arrested on July 13 in connection with the fatal shooting of Juan Ceballos, 20, in Mecca, a Southern California desert town. According to Ceballos's younger brother, the victim was bisexual, and police say the crime was motivated by his sexual orientation.
Ceballos worked two jobs, at a gas station and a Pizza Hut, to help fund his way through College of the Desert as well as help his mother and four siblings financially. "He was coming home from work. He had pizza," Sergio Ceballos, the victim’s younger brother, told the TV station. "He was messaging me. As soon as he parked, it happened."
"Come outside" was the last text message sent before Sergio heard two gunshots outside of his home. "I ran out to check on him, but he was already dead," said Sergio Ceballos. Maria Teresa Mendez, the victim’s mother, added that Juan "was a happy person and tried to guide his siblings to do good in life."
Ramirez and Juan Ceballos were coworkers, police told KESQ. Ramirez, who entered his not guilty plea Friday in Riverside County Superior Court, is being held without bail and is due back in court next Monday. Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty.