Man denies deadly stabbing, arson in North County

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VISTA, Calif. (CNS) – A man who allegedly stabbed another man multiple times inside an Escondido home, then set the residence ablaze with the victim still inside, pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and arson charges.

Jose Trinidad Romero, 32, is accused in the Oct. 4 death of Procopio Blanco Cervantes, who was found by firefighters inside a burning home in the 600 block of Waverly Place.

During Romero’s Friday morning arraignment, Deputy District Attorney Jack Wang said Romero and the victim had a “landlord-tenant relationship.” The prosecutor said the killing occurred because of an unspecified dispute over property that was left behind at the residence.

Surveillance footage allegedly captured Romero and Cervantes entering the home together.

Wang said the victim’s cousin called him at some point after that, and Cervantes sounded “odd” during the phone conversation. About ten minutes after the phone call, Wang said surveillance footage shows Romero leaving the home, which became engulfed in flames moments later.

As firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze, Cervantes was found lying in the home’s kitchen with five or six “significant” stab wounds and “dozens more superficial wounds,” according to the prosecutor. Medics took him to Palomar Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to Escondido Police.

Wang said Romero then failed to show up for work over the next two days, but did arrive on Oct. 7, and was taken into custody by police.

In arguing that Romero should be held without bail, Wang said Romero had arranged for one of his friends to take him to Mexico.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Harry Elias ordered Romero held without bail, per the prosecution’s request. He’s due back in court Nov. 20 for a readiness conference.

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