The man accused of killing and sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl in a high-profile Las Vegas cold case said Wednesday that he is innocent and won't accept any plea deals.
Gregory Wallen, 36, said he is "not guilty" of killing Diana Hernandez in 1994 and dumping her body in a trash bin.
Wallen, who was arrested in Pahrump earlier this week, appeared in court via teleconference from the county jail. He sported several tattoos, including a teardrop below his left eye, and chains around his neck.
During a brief appearance in court, Wallen interrupted Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure, Jr., to profess his innocence.
"We are not accepting any deals," he said.
"Mr. Wallen, I've already addressed you," Bonaventure said. "I just need you to hold on for one minute."
Wallen's voice was nearly drowned out by Claudia Samano, the aunt of the victim, who sobbed loudly throughout the brief court hearing.
Bonaventure ordered Wallen be held without bail. He set a preliminary hearing for July 1.
Wallen's arrest this week closes a chapter in a mystery that hung over Las Vegas for 15 years. Diana was reported missing on April 2, 1994. She and her family were returning home from a shopping trip when Diana ran ahead of her mother and two sisters, who had stopped by their apartment complex's office to pay rent.
Diana's mother found the 7-year-old's shopping bag at the front door of the family's upstairs apartment but couldn't find the first-grader.
She was discovered the next day in a cardboard box inside a trash bin at the apartment complex, located near Flamingo Road and Maryland Parkway. She was sexually assaulted and beaten on the head.
For years, police searched for Diana's killer. In 1997, Las Vegas police stated a man arrested in North Carolina might have a connection to Diana's slaying.
The man, John Brewer Eustace, was arrested that year for sexually assaulting a 2-year-old girl. At the time, police said he wasn't a suspect in Diana's death but was being questioned because he had once lived in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas police detectives re-opened Diana's case in January. Detectives discovered that Wallen had lived at the same apartment complex as the victim and even helped search for her when she was missing.
Police learned that several years before Diana's slaying, Wallen had been arrested in Pahrump on a charge of sexually assaulting a minor. He was convicted of a lesser charge
Police linked Wallen to Diana's slaying through DNA evidence taken from the victim's body, authorities said. His fingerprint was also found on the cardboard box Diana was found in, according to a Las Vegas police report.
Contact reporter David Kihara at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039.