The suspect in a robbery that left an elderly woman dead pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of robbery and participating in a criminal street gang in connection with another, but similar, case.
Maxamillion Lee McDonald was ordered held on $1 million bail, and Bakersfield police are continuing to investigate Sunday evening's robbery that killed 71-year-old Guadalupe Ramos. It's possible that investigation could lead to a murder charge against McDonald.
Prosecutors kicked the Ramos case back to police for more investigation. Police said Wednesday they are investigating whether another person was involved; they have received conflicting information on that.
Prosecutor Cynthia Zimmer said the offenses McDonald was charged with Wednesday are related to a similar incident that happened the day before Ramos' death.
Family of Ramos declined to comment on the case at the arraignment. But Angelica Ramos, the daughter of Guadalupe Ramos, told KBAK Channel 29 that the two were at the store while running errands.
Angelica's son was shot and killed in a gang shooting on Monterrey Street just a few weeks ago, she told the station.
Police reported McDonald, 26, snatched a gold necklace from Ramos' neck outside the Foods Co. market on Haley Street north Highway 178. The assault knocked Ramos to the ground, and she later died of her injuries.
McDonald ran to a car and left the area, police said. It was unclear whether he was the car's driver or a passenger. He was arrested Monday.
Bakersfield police Sgt. Joe Grubbs said these types of robberies are getting fairly common. While he didn't have exact figures, he said there are "a significant number" of similar robberies that have happened in the city, most involving the suspect pulling a gold chain right off the victim's neck.
Part of the reason for the increase in these crimes, Grubbs said, is probably the proliferation of "cash for gold" stores in which a person can simply carry in a handful of gold jewelry and get cash in return.
"I think the criminals have figured out this is easy money and there's literally no identification," Grubbs said.
Kern County sheriff's Senior Deputy Michael Whorf said there have been 14 strong-arm robberies reported in its jurisdiction from May 1 to July 24 in which a gold chain or necklace was stolen.
Among McDonald's previous convictions are recklessly evading a peace officer and carrying a loaded gun without registration in 2005, and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury in 2003, court records show.
McDonald's next court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 5.