An Oxnard man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he murdered another man after forcing his way into the sleeping victim's home in the middle of the night.
Joseph Leon Samuel, 25, remains in Ventura County Jail pending a May 31 preliminary hearing on charges of murder and using a firearm.
He is charged with the March 22 slaying of Anthony Pech, 24, who was shot in the face about 2:30 a.m. in his home in a quiet, relatively crime-free neighborhood near Channel Islands Harbor.
Police said Samuel and at least one other person drove up to Pech's house in the 1800 block of Helm Drive. Samuel then got out of the car, broke down the side gate and went around the back to an enclosed patio where Pech and his girlfriend lived, police said.
The gunman shot Pech after a brief struggle.
Samuel's $500,000 bail is twice the amount normally set in a murder case. Although prosecutors have refused to discuss a possible motive for the murder, they said they asked for the higher bail in part because Samuel is a gang member.
Prosecutors also have said they believe Samuel and Pech knew each other--a claim denied by the defendant's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Gary Windom.
Police say they have not ruled out a drug connection to the murder.