Gregory Scott Smith pleaded not guilty Monday in Ventura County Superior Court to murder, kidnaping and arson charges in the death of an 8-year-old Northridge boy.
Smith, 21, of Canoga Park, is scheduled to stand trial on Oct. 22 in the slaying of Paul Bailly, who disappeared March 23 after his mother dropped him off at the Darby Avenue Elementary School day-care center in Northridge.
Paul's body was found on fire several hours later in a field in the Santa Susana Knolls area south of Simi Valley. Prosecutors allege that Smith kidnaped Paul, gagged him with duct tape and strangled him, then set fire to his body.
Smith worked at the Darby day-care center until supervisors fired him March 6 for playing roughly with children and sometimes deserting them on the playground.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Peter D. Kossoris said the trial will last about a month unless prosecutors decide to seek the death penalty, which could lengthen the trial to two or three months. Kossoris said his office will decide by July 16 whether to seek the death penalty.
Superior Court Judge Steven Z. Perren ordered Smith to remain in Ventura County Jail without bond until his trial.