VISTA (CNS) - A man accused of killing his 7-year-old daughter at the family's Oceanside home pleaded not guilty today to murder, assault and child cruelty charges.
Pedro Araujo, 27, is charged in last Wednesday's slaying of Mariah Araujo. Police have not commented on the cause of her death, but the criminal complaint indicates that a knife was used.
In addition to murder, the defendant is charged with assault on a child in regard to Mariah, and misdemeanor child cruelty involving her 6-year- old sister, Viviana.
He faces 26 years to life in prison if convicted of all charges.
The children's grandmother made an emergency call shortly after 11 a.m. to report that she had just gone to the family's house in the 3500 block of Las Vegas Drive to pick up Mariah and her sister but had been unable to find the older girl, Oceanside police spokesman Tom Bussey said.
The woman reported that her son -- the girls' father -- had been evasive about the whereabouts of his elder daughter and had blood on him, Bussey said.
Officers went to the residence near Emerald Isle Golf Course and searched it, finding the victim's body in a bathroom. Detectives questioned Araujo and took him into custody on suspicion of murdering his daughter, Bussey said.
Araujo's arraignment was initially scheduled for last Friday, but was postponed twice because he was being held in ``enhanced observation housing,'' according to court staff.
Members of the girl's family gathered at the Vista courthouse last Friday and told reporters that Araujo was unstable and should not have been anywhere near his daughters.
Karina Avina, Mariah's aunt, said Araujo did not have custody of the children as numerous Child Protective Services cases were open and ongoing against him, though the circumstances of those cases was unclear.
``We want him to pay the max. That's what we want,'' Avina said. ``We don't want a few years. We don't want him to get out. He needs to pay his whole life.''
Araujo is being held without bail. He's next due at the Vista courthouse on Aug. 14 for a readiness conference.