Man accused of strangling father in Rancho Santa Fe home could face death penalty

VISTA, Calif. -- A man accused in the beating and choking death of his 71-year-old father in the victim's Rancho Santa Fe home pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and torture charges that could lead to the death penalty if he is convicted.

Leighton Dorey IV, 39, was ordered held without bail, pending a June 15 preliminary hearing.

The defendant was arrested Wednesday in a wooded area near Idyllwild in Riverside County.

Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood said the defendant -- living in Europe the past four years --  showed up out of the blue at his father's home on Tuesday, driving a Jeep.

Greenwood said the relationship between Dorey IV and his father, Leighton Dorey III, had been contentious for a while.

The wife of Leighton Dorey III found his body in a back room of their house in the 17200 block of La Brisa upon returning from an outing shortly before 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Greenwood said the victim suffered facial, spinal and neck fractures in what he called "a savage attack."

An autopsy determined the victim died of blunt-force trauma to his head, neck and upper body, as well as strangulation, sheriff's homicide Lt. Kenneth Nelson said.

The death was ruled a homicide.