BAKERSFIELD, CALIF - Update: Coroner: 15-year-old found dead in garage was strangled
A man accused of murdering a 15-year-old girl had his first court appearance Thursday and was officially charged with the teenager's death.
Officials with the the district attorney's office believe in addition to murdering 15-year-old Stacy Duke, 23-year-old Gerardo Rodriguez also raped her, or attempted to. They plan to add that charge, making Rodriguez eligible for the death penalty if he's convicted.
Rodriguez was in purple paper clothing in court, indicating he's on suicide watch inside the jail. His attorney shielded his face from cameras and said his client pleads not guilty to all charges.
Andrea Kohler of the DA's office asked the judge to delay the arraignment because the case could be a death penalty case, which requires more preparation.
In addition to murder, the DA's office plans on filing another charge of rape or attempted rape.
Rodriguez's family told us they knew teenager Stacy Duke by a different name, and they say she claimed to be 22.
They say Rodriguez is a good kid who's been in special education classes all his life and still lives at his parents home, where Duke's death occurred.
Those relatives say when they found the victim, she was clothed but unconscious. They say Rodriguez was instructed by 911 dispatchers to perform CPR on the girl, which they say caused the victim to vomit.
Rodriguez's family says they're anxious for Stacy Duke's autopsy to reveal her cause of death.
No family of the victim was present today in court. A friend of Rodriguez and an acquaintance of Duke told us the victim is an orphan and has no family. However, the coroner's office noted that her next of kin was notified before her name was released.
Rodriguez is scheduled to be back in court next Thursday.
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