A second suspect in the fatal beating of Johnny Joe Belmarez pleaded not guilty to a count of deliberate homicide Thursday in Missoula District Court.
Eugene Joseph "Joey" Gonzalez, 47, appeared for the arraignment hearing before Standing Master Brenda Desmond and remains jailed on $500,000 bail.
A co-defendant in the case, Raymond Lee "Garfield" Big Beaver, 41, also has pleaded not guilty to a count of murder. Both men are charged in connection with the April 12 attack on Belmarez, a homeless man whose body police discovered in an alley in downtown Missoula.
The suspects and victim were well known among members of Missoula's street culture, and police have described them as "transient," although Gonzalez gave court officials a Stevensville addess.
Belmarez, 46, who also went by the name "Johnny 5," was discovered shortly after 7 p.m. on April 12 in the alley behind a business at 130 W. Broadway. A medical examiner determined that he died from blunt force trauma that resulted in a skull fracture, and witnesses identified Gonzalez and Big Beaver as the assailants.
According to court records, witnesses told police they encountered Gonzalez after the attack and said he bragged about killing Belmarez; other witnesses say they saw the beating, and that Big Beaver was also involved. The two men allegedly punched and kicked Belmarez, and continued the assault after he fell to the ground.
Public defenders Chris Daly and Paulette Ferguson are representing Gonzalez, and asked Desmond to schedule the next court hearing in 60 days to allow them time to investigate the allegations.
"This is getting to be a rather complex case," Daly said.
An omnibus hearing is scheduled for July 8.