Guatemalan man pleads not guilty in 2001 stabbing case

A Guatemalan man who leapt 25 feet over a concrete railing at San Francisco International Airport to flee from authorities pleaded not guilty today in San Mateo County Superior Court to charges he was involved in a fatal 2001 stabbing.

Reynaldo Maldonado, 28, spoke through a Spanish interpreter when he entered his plea. He has been hospitalized under armed guard since his escape attempt on Oct. 20. He was at the airport returning to California after authorities arrested him in Miami days earlier for the murder of 15-year-old Quetzalcoatl Alba.

Alba had been a freshman at Westmoor High School in Daly City when on May 21, 2001, he was found dead with multiple stab wounds in a storage room in the carport area of the Westlake Apartments, according to Daly City police.

Both Maldonado and his roommate, 16-year-old Erick Morales, who was Alba's classmate, lived at the apartment, according to police.

A recent tip led police on Oct. 11 back to the apartment, where an excavation in the backyard uncovered the suspected murder weapon, a knife, as well as bloody clothing and Alba's cell phone, according to the San Mateo

County District Attorney's Office.

Defense attorney Paul Demeester said outside the courtroom that the trial would be “just a matter of finding out what (Eric) Morales did or Reynaldo (Maldonado) did.” He said police believe Morales was the killer and he will see what, if anything, Maldonado did that is liable under the law.

Daly City police Lt. Jay Morena said today police have still not located Morales and are looking for the public's help.

Morena said Morales, now 23, who along with Maldonado was in the United States illegally, is believed to still be in the country. The fact he lacks documentation such as a driver's license complicates the search, and he is presumed to be using an alias, he added.

Both suspects were originally from Los Amates, Guatemala, and the FBI and Guatemalan authorities have been interviewing their family and associates there, Morena said. Detectives also believe Morales has family in the Bay Area and are hoping to speak with them, he added.

Maldonado has claimed to detectives he has not had any contact with Morales since 2001, Morena said.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Maldonado on Dec. 26 at 9 a.m. Deputy District Attorney Al Giannini asked that the trial take place in Redwood City as opposed to South San Francisco where it would normally be held because Maldonado is a flight risk.

“His escape attempt at the airport was pretty serious,” Giannini said. He asked the court to keep the case in the southern part of the county so the sheriff's office wouldn't have to transport him back and forth.

If convicted, Maldonado faces 25 years to life in prison. He remains in custody in San Mateo County Jail on a no-bail status.

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