SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A 56-year-old man accused of repeatedly beating a 25-year-old victim over the head with a crowbar while trying to steal money from him and his girlfriend at a gas station in Valencia Park pleaded not guilty Wednesday to premeditated attempted murder and other charges.
Clare Lyle Neighbour faces life in prison plus seven years if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Chris Moon.
Neighbor -- held on $1.5 million bail -- was arrested Monday afternoon in Huntington Beach in connection with the attack early last Saturday morning on Carlos Ramirez at the Express Gas Station on Imperial Avenue, according to San Diego police Sgt. Louis Valenzuela.
Ramirez was hospitalized in serious but stable condition, but his prognosis is unclear, Moon said.
Detectives from San Diego identified Neighbour as a suspect on Sunday and learned he had ties to Huntington Beach, then notified authorities in the Orange County city to be on the lookout, the sergeant said.
Moon said the victim and his girlfriend pulled into the gas station around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, about the same time as the defendant.
The prosecutor said Neighbour asked the victim for money and the victim declined and went to pay for his own gas.
Neighbour retrieved a crowbar from the trunk of his car and threatened the victim's girlfriend, then struck Ramirez in the neck as he approached, sending the victim to the ground, Moon alleged.
He alleged the defendant continued to hit the victim in the head with the crowbar, striking him at least 25 times.
Moon said Neighbour -- a former resident of Washington state -- appeared to be living out of his truck at the time of the attack.
The victim's girlfriend, Sylvia Rivera, spoke to reporters after Wednesday's arraignment.
"I want him (the defendant) to pay for what he did, and I want justice for Carlos Ramirez,'' she said.
In addition to attempted murder, Neighbour is charged with aggravated mayhem and attempted robbery. He will be back in court March 8 for a readiness conference and March 12 for a preliminary hearing.