A 52-year-old suspect accused of killing a couple in their Mission Avenue home pleaded not guilty to murder charges in Merced County Superior Court on Monday.
Dressed in an orange jailhouse jumpsuit, Julio Cesar Guevara Bonilla sat quietly during the brief hearing. He's charged with two counts of first degree murder in the deaths of William Cisneros, 82, and his wife, Clara Cisneros, 43.
The couple's badly decomposed bodies were discovered Sept. 30 in the laundry room of their 440 Mission Ave. home. Merced County sheriff's investigators said the bodies had been stabbed multiple times.
Bonilla is also facing two felony counts of grand theft and one felony count of auto theft. Attached to each of the murder charges is an enhancement for allegedly using a knife. He was extradited from Louisiana last month and booked into the Merced County Jail on Oct. 23, following his arrest by Kenner Police Department officers.
Detectives from the department’s Major Crimes Unit tracked Bonilla from Merced to Corona to Victorville to Louisiana after the Cisneros' bodies were found.
Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin wouldn't comment Tuesday about what investigators may have learned after interviewing Bonilla.
After the bodies were found, detectives discovered Bonilla had taken some of their belongings, including suitcases, jewelry and flat-screen televisions. He allegedly gave those items to family members.
The couple’s Jeep was also found abandoned in Ontario on Sept. 8.
"At this point in time, we believe (the motive) was robbery, just by the mere fact that he took the Cisneros’ personal belongings and fled in their vehicle,” Pazin said. “Other than that, it’s truly anybody’s guess whether there was an ulterior motive other than the theft of their property.”
Bonilla lived with the couple and had worked in their gardening business, according to investigators.
Deputy Public Defender Caleb Hegland, Bonilla’s attorney, said he spoke with his client at length this week. Still, Hegland had few comments Tuesday, when asked about the case and Bonilla’s plea.
“This is a complex and unusual case. New facts continue to emerge as we conduct our own investigation into the deaths of William and (Clara) Cisneros,” Hegland said. "Mr. Bonilla has indicated that he wants to move quickly towards trial. We are diligently preparing to present our case."
The bodies were discovered by animal control agents after the U.S. Postal Service reported that they had not picked up their mail for some time and several underfed dogs were on the property.
Bonilla is being held at the Merced County Jail in lieu of $2.1 million bail.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.