LOS LUNAS, N.M. – A 15-year-old New Mexico teenager accused of stabbing his 12-year-old playmate to death pleaded not guilty Friday to a murder charge.
Defense attorney Cindy Mercer entered the plea in a Los Lunas courtroom as the handcuffed teen remained silent with his head bowed, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
Mercer said her client's low-functioning mental capabilities made her question whether he understands the proceedings or his rights, an issue she has raised at his grand jury indictment earlier this month.
State District Court Judge Violet Otero acknowledged Mercer's concern before setting a $500,000 cash-only bond.
Valencia County Assistant District Attorney Darlene Weed said she was requesting a large bond because of severity of the injuries. Weed said Alex Madrid of Albuquerque was stabbed repeatedly in the head by an object similar to a screwdriver. Madrid also was hit hard enough in the torso to suffer a punctured lung and appeared to have been struck with a tire iron, she said.
According to prosecutors, the teen stabbed Madrid last month before placing his body under a mattress in a rural field at Meadow Lake, about 40 miles south of Albuquerque.
Roxanne Madrid, the victim's mother, reported him missing when she went to pick him up from Meadow Lake and he didn't show up. The suspect ended up leading Valencia County Sheriff's deputies to his body Feb. 18.
The teen told investigators he hit Madrid in self-defense because Madrid tried to stab him with a screwdriver following an argument over the teen's infant daughter, according to an affidavit.
The 15-year-old's baby girl is 4 months old, deputies said.
Prosecutors plan to try the teen as an adult unless he is deemed incompetent to stand trial.
Under New Mexico law, the state can charge minors as adults only if they are at least 14. The Associated Press typically doesn't identify juveniles charged in crimes.
Roxanne Madrid and other family members sobbed throughout the arraignment but did not speak.