A Washington gang member pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a felony count related to the murder of 25-year-old Jake Colvin, but the murderer remains at large.
Leo Antonio Rodriguez, 34, parked his white sports utility vehicle outside St. Patrick Hospital with Colvin's body in the passenger seat on July 26.
He then allegedly proceeded to hide his own gun, which was not used in the homicide, in a bathroom trash receptacle inside St. Pat's. According to court documents, Colvin had been dead for hours; rigor mortis had set in.
Rodriguez, who has an extensive criminal history and is an alleged gang member, denied the charge of evidence tampering before Judge Karen Townsend in Missoula District Court on Tuesday.
"As you can see in this case," Rodriguez told the judge, "I am also the victim of what happened. I was just helping a friend."
Townsend accepted the man's plea and lowered his bond to $25,000 from $100,000.
Missoula police are collaborating with the Spokane Police Department in the investigation, but it's currently unclear where the murder took place − in Missoula, Spokane or somewhere in between.
It's also unclear what role Rodriguez played in the murder, aside from driving the dead man to the hospital.
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Missoula police spokesman Travis Welsh said on Tuesday Spokane law enforcement is in the process of interviewing potential witnesses or people of interest.
"We are currently waiting to see the results of some interviews in Spokane, and also they are going to send over the evidence technician to examine the vehicle," Welsh said.
He said the agencies may ask the FBI to help investigate the murder.
Rodriguez was found in a bathroom in St. Patrick Hospital shortly after noon on July 26. He was in front of the sink, wearing a white T-shirt and boots.
According to prosecutors, Rodriguez appeared nervous and his pupils were dilated. Water covered the counter and the floor.
Shortly before law enforcement's arrival, Rodriguez parked his white Suburban facing the wrong direction in front of the emergency room entrance to the hospital.
He left the keys in the ignition and the lights were on.
It was evident to responding officers that Colvin had been dead for quite some time.
Though officers didn't initially find a weapon on Rodriguez, a .380 Hi-Point handgun was found in the bathroom trash.