A lengthy litigation process stemming from the discovery of Dena Raley-McCluskey's body in a shallow grave near Groveland in late October began in earnest Wednesday, when Russell Jones of Modesto pleaded not guilty to the sole murder charge he faces.
Jones, 47, will return to Stanislaus County Superior Court each month as his defense attorney gets up to speed, and that can't happen until the district attorney's office turns investigative reports over to the public defender's office.
So far, Public Defender Bernard Fairfield has 20 pages, but Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees told the court that enough paperwork to fill seven binders will be forwarded in the coming weeks.
Jones eventually will have a preliminary hearing in which a judge will determine if he should be held for trial. He waived his right to have that hearing within 10 days. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.
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Raley-McCluskey, who disappeared eight years ago, rented a room from Jones. Authorities have not said how they cracked the cold case.
In addition to arraigning Jones, Judge Marie Silveira inquired about the $2 million bail that had been set at Jones' first court appearance earlier this month.
As the judge noted, the bail schedule calls for $1 million to $5 million in murder cases. The defense attorney said his client, a disabled mechanic, has no means to make bail.
"My client tells me he can't afford $50,000, let alone $2 million, so it's all irrelevant," Fairfield said.