Joseph Mehlenbacher, 18, had been a suspect for several days in the San Diego killing. Image via Murrieta Police Department

An 18-year-old suspected of fatally shooting a man in the El Cerrito neighborhood, then fleeing the county, pleaded not guilty Monday to a murder charge.

Joseph Aaron Mehlenbacher is accused in the Dec. 26 slaying of 28-year-old Kenneth Confer outside a residence in the 5700 block of El Cajon Boulevard.

San Diego Police received a 911 call just after 11 p.m. and arrived to find Confer on a second-floor landing with a gunshot wound to his head.

He was taken to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, SDPD Lt. Andra Brown said.

At Mehlenbacher’s arraignment, Deputy District Attorney Alex Willett said the defendant was staying at a friend’s apartment when he became angered with Confer and others who were making noise in a nearby apartment.

Willett said Mehlenbacher first got into a verbal argument with the victim and neighbors and was brandishing a handgun during the argument.

After his friend initially convinced him to come back inside and shut the door, Mehlenbacher later opened the door and shot Confer in the head, Willett said. He then allegedly collected his belongings and fled.

His car was spotted about two hours later in the Riverside County city of Murrieta by Border Patrol officers, the prosecutor said. Officers gave chase because the car was driving erratically on surface streets and later ended the pursuit for safety reasons, though the prosecutor said that at the time, the officers were unaware the defendant was wanted for murder.

He was arrested at a home in Murrieta on Dec. 30.

Mehlenbacher was being held in lieu of $3 million bail and his next court date is a Feb. 9 readiness conference.

— City News Service

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