MECCA, Calif. -Miguel Angel Bautista Ramirez pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, a hate crime and a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait Friday in Indio.
Police arrested Ramirez Monday in connection with the shooting death of Juan Ceballos, 20, in Mecca on July 13.
Ceballos was bisexual, according to his 17-year-old brother Sergio Ceballos. The College of the Desert student worked two jobs, one at TA of America gas station and at Pizza Hut.
Deputies told us Ramirez and Juan were coworkers. A criminal complaint alleges Ramirez waited for Juan outside his home and shot and killed him because of his sexual orientation.
Sergio said his brother, the oldest of five siblings, was shot several times in his car outside their apartment on Dale Kiner Road. He died bringing dinner home to their family.
"He was coming home from work. He had pizza," said Sergio Ceballos. "He was messaging me. As soon as he parked it happened."
"Come outside" was the last text message Sergio got from his older brother. Seconds later Sergio heard two gunshots.
"I ran out to check on him, but he was already dead," said Sergio Ceballos.
"He worked hard to pay bills. He went to school. He wanted a future and career."
"He was a happy person and tried to guide his siblings to do good in life," said Maria Teresa Mendez, Juan's mother.
The family was so distraught about what happened to Juan just outside their door, that after his funeral they had to pack up and move to a different apartment.
In their new home, his mom has lit candles beside Juan's pictures on their living room table. Sergio said he hopes to fill his big brother's shoes who he said was like a father to him and their brothers and sister.
"I'm the one that's oldest now so I have to step up like he did," said Sergio.
Ramirez is being held without bail and is due back in court Aug. 11. The district attorney will decide later whether to seek the death penalty in this case.
"I hope it's the guy. I hope they got him off the streets so they don't cause this pain