THERMAL, Calif. -

A 25-year-old Thermal man pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of killing a 20-year-old Mecca resident because of his sexual orientation.

Charges were filed Wednesday against Miguel Angel Bautista Ramirez, who
was arrested Monday in Coachella and booked on suspicion of fatally shooting Juan Ceballos in Mecca on July 13.

He entered the plea at his arraignment Friday morning at the Larson Justice Center in Indio and is due back in court Aug. 11 for a felony settlement conference.

Ramirez is being held without bail.

The criminal complaint alleges that Ramirez killed Ceballos ``because of
a bias against the victim's sexual orientation.'' Along with murder, he faces
hate crime and lying-in-wait allegations.

Riverside County sheriff's deputies were called to the 65-000 block of
Dale Kiler Road in Mecca shortly before midnight July 13 and found Ceballos
with several gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene, sheriff's Sgt. Jim Erickson said.