A Perris man accused of fatally stabbing a mother and daughter out for an evening walk and knifing a man to death in a field -- for no apparent reason -- pleaded not guilty today to three counts of first-degree murder.
David Rey Contreras, 25, was arrested on Aug. 7 at his family's home in the 2200 block of Wilson Avenue following a months-long investigation by Riverside County sheriff's detectives.
Contreras faces special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and taking multiple lives in the same crime in connection with the deadly assault last December on 53-year-old Jose Apreza, and an attack in February on 51-year- old Maria Gonzalez and her 25-year-old daughter, Consuelo "Connie" Gonzalez.
Contreras appeared with his public defender before Superior Court Judge Judith Clark, who set a Sept. 13 felony settlement conference. The defendant remains in custody without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
Sheriff's investigators say eyewitness accounts, physical evidence and other methods were used to identify the alleged killer, who apparently chose his targets at random, not knowing any of them. One Riverside County official referred to him as a "serial killer."
The first assault occurred Dec. 29 in the area of Evans Road and Orange Avenue in Perris. The victim had gone out that morning to walk his pit bull and was reported missing by his wife when he didn't return within a few hours.
One of the deputies dispatched to search for the missing man that afternoon spotted Apreza's body in an open field with a dog standing nearby. He had been stabbed multiple times. When the deputy approached, the pit bull lunged at him, prompting the lawman to shoot and kill the animal.
On the evening of Feb. 4, Maria Gonzalez and her daughter left their Nuevo home to take a stroll along Central Avenue and a short time later were confronted by a man who attacked them with a knife, according to investigators.
Deputies arrived within minutes and found the victims lying on a sidewalk between Ramona and Rosary avenues.
Connie Gonzalez was pronounced dead at the scene. Her mother died at Menifee Valley Medical Center less than an hour later.
Witnesses reported seeing a young man in dark clothing fleeing the area but were unable to provide any further information.
The assault on the two women fueled concerns about a surge of violent crime throughout the Perris and San Jacinto valleys. Supervisor Marion Ashley held community meetings to try to allay fears, and the Board of Supervisors posted a $100,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the women's killer.