A man facing the death penalty and accused in the rape and killing of UNLV student Paula Davis pleaded not guilty Thursday.
Giovanni Ruiz, 21, is charged with murder, first-degree kidnapping with a deadly weapon, robbery with a deadly weapon, sexual assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful sexual penetration of a dead body.
Ruiz was arrested after Davis’ body was found naked in her family’s van on Sept. 6 at a North Las Vegas park. Police have said she sent Ruiz a breakup text message the same day.
In court Thursday, Ruiz stood shackled next to his attorney, Gabriel Grasso, and told District Judge Douglas Herndon that he understood the charges against him.
A Clark County medical examiner testified before a grand jury that she noticed signs of sexual assault that appeared to indicate that Davis, 19, was raped as she was dying from two gunshot wounds to the head, according to transcripts obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Earlier this week, prosecutors said they intended to seek capital punishment for Ruiz, a graduate accounting student at UNLV, where Davis was studying economics.
Grasso has said that he was disappointed with the decision to pursue the death penalty.
On the day that Ruiz was taken to jail, detectives found a semi-automatic handgun, missing two rounds, along with a receipt for the weapon hidden inside a suitcase in Ruiz’s home, according to police. It was purchased two days before Davis was killed.
The two had dated, but Davis tried to break up with Ruiz in the days before her father found her dead, according to grand jury testimony. She had described him as possessive and jealous, police have said.
Authorities believe Ruiz killed Davis within an hour after she sent him a text message indicating she wanted to move on from their relationship, according to court records.