CRIME

Suspect in 9 Phoenix serial killings pleads not guilty

A former city bus driver pleaded not guilty Thursday to a string of nighttime serial killings of people outside their homes or sitting in cars, slayings that kept residents of a Phoenix neighborhood inside after dark.

Aaron Juan Saucedo, 23, dubbed the "Serial Street Shooter" by authorities, has been charged with fatally shooting nine people and wounding two others during a nearly one-year period that ended in July 2016.

Defense attorneys kept Saucedo out of the courtroom after learning news cameras would be allowed. The judge entered the pleas on his behalf.

Police accuse Saucedo of carrying out 12 shootings from August 2015 to July 2016. Saucedo only knew his first victim — a man who was in a relationship with the suspect's mother and was shot outside the victim's home.

The other victims included a 21-year-old man whose girlfriend was pregnant with their son and a 12-year-old girl who was shot to death along with her mother and the woman's friend, authorities say.

Most of the killings were in a mostly Latino neighborhood where locals became afraid to go outside their homes at night. The victims were shot by a gunman who was sitting in a car or had just stepped out of his vehicle.

Saucedo didn't appear in court after Commissioner Thomas Kaipio of Maricopa County Superior Court granted a media request to allow a camera in the courtroom, according to news media attorney David Bodney.

Kaipio considered the request by media organizations including The Associated Press, The Arizona Republic and Phoenix TV stations during a brief closed-door hearing before the arraignment.

Defense attorneys argued camera coverage and media exposure would hurt Saucedo's case and that the request had not been filed in a timely manner and needed a formal hearing, Bodney said.

"Under the rule, they must demonstrate a likelihood of harm to their defendant by the presence of a camera and that the likely harm outweighs any public benefit to camera coverage," Bodney said.

But Kaipio also mentioned the defense's right to waive Saucedo's presence in the courtroom.

Saucedo's next court appearance was set for Aug. 16.

___

Associated Press writer Jacques Billeaud contributed to this report.