LANCASTER (CNS) - A man pleaded not guilty today to killing an 82-year-old fellow patient who was praying when he was clubbed in the head with an oxygen tank at a Lancaster hospital, where both men were being treated for COVID-19.
Jesse Martinez, 37, of Lancaster, was charged last Dec. 21 with one count each of murder and elder or dependent adult abuse resulting in death, along with a hate crime allegation.
The attack on Lancaster resident David Hernandez-Garcia occurred Dec. 17 in the COVID-19 ward at Antelope Valley Hospital. According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the defendant and victim men did not know each other prior to being admitted to the medical center.
“(The victim) was housed in a two-person room inside the hospital with the suspect, who was also there receiving treatment,'' according to a statement released then by the sheriff's department. “The suspect became upset when the victim started to pray. He then struck the victim with an oxygen tank.''
Criminal proceedings against Martinez were suspended Jan. 5 after a doubt was declared about his mental competency to stand trial, with the case subsequently being sent back to criminal court.
He has remained behind bars since he was arrested Dec. 17 by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, jail records show.
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