Suspect pleads not guilty in '08 Las Vegas slaying

A 46-year-old man accused of stabbing to death and robbing a 61-year-old in September 2008 pleaded not guilty to those charges in District Court on Tuesday.

Carlos Barajas, who was on the lam from Las Vegas police for more than a year after the slaying, is charged with multiple felony counts including murder, robbery and first-degree kidnapping in the death of Francisco Gutierrez.

The district attorney's death penalty committee will review the case and decide whether prosecutors will seek capital punishment against Barajas, Chief Deputy District Attorney Marc DiGiacomo said.

There are several aggravating circumstances, including the robbery count, that could make Barajas' case eligible for the death penalty, according to state law.

Gutierrez's body was found in a pool of his own blood in his garage in the 4200 block of Walnut Family Court, near Craig Road and Lamb Boulevard, according to Barajas' arrest report. He had been hog-tied and stabbed multiple times.

Family members found him after he had not been heard from or reported to work on Sept. 8, 2008.

Barajas became a suspect after Las Vegas police learned the two men had business transactions together and that Barajas owed Gutierrez money.

Barajas had been living in a motor home that was parked in front of Gutierrez's residence. Barajas told investigators that he and Gutierrez had met while working at a Henderson pallet yard and that Gutierrez allowed him to siphon electricity from the Walnut Family Court residence to the motor home.

Barajas told investigators that Gutierrez demanded full payment for a tow truck he had sold the defendant the day before the stabbing, the arrest report said. Barajas said he had gone to meet Gutierrez the day of the slaying to discuss the payment, but Gutierrez wasn't home and he never entered the house. But forensic evidence, including fingerprints and DNA evidence, show Barajas was in the residence,.

Gutierrez's sister also told detectives that Gutierrez had expressed concern for his safety and wanted to purchase a gun for protection the day before the slaying. Gutierrez told his sister the man he was concerned about was someone called "Muneco" who was using Gutierrez's electricity to power a motor home.

Authorities believe after the slaying Barajas allegedly stole an undisclosed amount of cash from Gutierrez and a 2005 Ford F-150 pickup.

An arrest warrant was signed in February 2009 for Barajas, but he fled the state, said Lt. Lew Roberts, head of the police department's homicide unit.

Barajas was eventually picked up by law enforcement in either North or South Dakota, Roberts said.

Barajas was extradited to Las Vegas in April, according to jail records. He is being held at the Clark County Detention Center on $1.2 million bail.

During the arraignment Tuesday, Barajas' public defender, Joseph Abood, asked for a speedy trial. A trial date was set for Aug. 23.

Abood declined to comment after the hearing Tuesday.

Barajas also faces a charge of possession of methamphetamine in a separate case, according to jail records.