Photo by bloomsberries / via Flickr

A young man accused in a series of San Diego-area gang-related killings and attempted slayings pleaded not guilty Monday to murder, attempted murder and conspiracy charges.

Ismael Betancourt, 20, is charged in the Aug. 1, 2019, shooting death of 57-year-old Marco Magana in Mountain View, the Feb. 8 shooting death of 19- year-old Leah Posey in Southcrest, and two attempted murders that allegedly occurred on July 24, 2019 and Feb. 8.

San Diego police announced Betancourt’s arrest last month in connection with the April 8, 2018, shooting death of 55-year-old Lowry Rivers in National City, which occurred when Betancourt was 17. Rivers’ killing is not listed in the latest complaint, and it’s unclear whether Betancourt is being tried in juvenile court regarding that crime or whether additional charges are pending in his current case.

In addition to the murders and attempted murders, Betancourt is charged along with six co-defendants with conspiracy to commit a crime, for what prosecutors allege was a plan to kill rival gang members.

The overarching conspiracy includes the July 12, 2019, shooting death of 20-year-old Joaquin Ruiz, who was shot in a vehicle in Bay Terraces  by assailants who opened fire from another vehicle.

The four defendants charged with that slaying have been arrested and pleaded not guilty. Two of those defendants, Ethan Apan, 28, and Kevin Herrera, 26, are also charged in the murders in which Betancourt is charged. The complaint charges Apan in Marco Magana’s murder and Herrera in Leah Posey’s murder.

Betancourt is being held without bail and his next court date is a Dec. 22 readiness conference.

–City News Service