By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – One of two reputed gang members arrested in the execution-style killings of six people in a central California farming town last month, including a baby and his teenage mother, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to six counts of first-degree murder.
Noah David Beard, 25, entered his plea and was ordered to remain held without bail during an arraignment held by video feed in Tulare County Superior Court, according to Stuart Anderson, a spokesman for county prosecutors.
It was the first court hearing in the case since Beard and his co-defendant, Angel Joseph Uriarte, 35, were arrested last week after about a week and a half under round-the-clock surveillance by law enforcement.
Uriarte, who was wounded in a shootout with federal agents before his arrest, remains in custody under medical care and will be arraigned at a future date, Anderson said.
The two men are accused of fatally shooting six people – five of them members of a single family – during a pre-dawn Jan. 16 home invasion in the agricultural community of Goshen, about 35 miles southeast of Fresno. Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux has called the attack a targeted massacre.
Most of the victims were shot in the head, including a 72-year-old grandmother, Rosa Parraz, found kneeling at her bedside, as well as 10-month-old Nycholas Parraz and his 16-year-old mother, Alissa Parraz.
Security camera video showed the teenager running from the house clutching her son in her arms, then lifting the baby over a fence, and scrambling over it herself before they were slain, the sheriff said. Authorities say Beard shot them.
The three other victims were identified as Eladio Parraz, 52; Jennifer Analla, 49; and Marcos Parraz, 19.
The precise motive remains under investigation. But authorities have said the killings appear gang-related.
Boudreaux said both defendants are members of the Nortenos, a primarily Mexican-American gang network affiliated with a prison-based criminal organization known as Nuestra Familia, Spanish for “our family.” He said two members of the Parraz family belonged to the rival Surenos, associated with a prison gang network known as the Mexican Mafia.
The murders shined a spotlight on rising gang violence and drug trafficking in some of California’s more rural, isolated areas, as a state known for some of the nation’s strictest gun laws faced a spate of deadly mass shootings.
The Goshen murders came one week before the first of two rampages by gunmen in California that left a total of 18 victims dead in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park and the San Francisco Bay-area coastal town of Half Moon Bay.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler)