Man pleads not guilty in vicious slaying of 7-year-old daughter

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VISTA, Calif. -- An Oceanside man killed his 7-year-old daughter by viciously stabbing her 10  times, an assistant district attorney said Tuesday.

Pedro Araujo, 27,  pleaded not guilty to murder, assault and child cruelty charges Tuesday in last Wednesday's slaying of Mariah Araujo.

The father was a no-show at scheduled hearings on Friday and Monday. Officials would not give an exact reason for why the jail could not produce Araujo the first two times.

He faces 26 years to life in prison if convicted of all charges.

“He’s charged with three counts, one is murder. Attached to that murder charge is an allegation that he personally ised a deadly weapon a knife. He’s also charged with alternatively with child abuse causing death. Again the same allegation that he used a knife to inflict those injuries, and cause that death and then he’s also charged with a third count of infliction of essentially emotional suffering on the 6-year-old daughter,” said Deputy District Attorney Ryan Saunders.

The children's grandmother made an emergency call shortly after 11 a.m. to report that she had just gone to the family's house in the 3500 block of Las Vegas Drive to pick up Mariah and her sister but had been unable to find the older girl, Oceanside police spokesman Tom Bussey said.

The woman reported that her son -- the girls' father -- had been evasive about the whereabouts of his elder daughter and had blood on him, Bussey said.

Officers went to the residence near Emerald Isle Golf Course and searched it, finding the victim's body in a bathroom. Detectives questioned Araujo and took him into custody on suspicion of murdering his daughter, Bussey said.

“There were approximately 10 stab wounds, four to the left side of her neck, puncturing her jugular and her carotid, two to the right side of her neck, that struck her spine, one under her chin, two to her right shoulder one to her right elbow, The wounds on her arm seem to be defensive in nature, her six year old sister was present in the next room when her father murdered her sister,” said Saunders in court.

Members of the girl's family gathered at the Vista courthouse last Friday and told reporters that Araujo was unstable and should not have been anywhere near his daughters. Karina Avina, Mariah's aunt, said Araujo did not have custody of the children as numerous Child Protective Services cases were open and ongoing against him, though the circumstances of those cases was unclear.

"We want him to pay the max. That's what we want,"  Avina said. "We don't want a few years. We don't want him to get out. He needs to pay his whole life."

The mother of the victim, Vivian Arzola spoke briefly following today's arraignment.

“I really wasn’t able to look at him. I can’t. I couldn’t even look up. I can’t even look at him in his eyes, it’s not fair that he took my daughter away from me,” said Mariah's mother Vivian Arzola. “He took my daughter and I want justice for Mariah.”

“Any loss of life is tragic the loss of a child is an unthinkable tragedy,” said Saunders.

Araujo is being held without bail. He's next due at the Vista courthouse on Aug. 14 for a readiness conference.

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