Local : Teen Pleads Innocent in Girl’s Death

From Times staff and wire service reports

A 14-year-old boy pleaded innocent today to charges that he strangled 7-year-old Sara Nan Hodges, whose decomposed body was found stuffed behind a water bed in his Newhall bedroom.

Curtis Cooper, a neighbor of the victim, denied a single count of murder at his arraignment in Juvenile Court. Cooper was ordered by Juvenile Court Referee Jeff Wiatt to remain in custody without bail and to return to court April 25 to schedule a trial date. If convicted, the boy could be sentenced to confinement at the California Youth Authority until age 25.

Sheriff’s Sgt. David Horton said investigators believe that the little girl was killed by the suspect in his bedroom before she was reported missing last Thursday from her rural Santa Clarita Valley neighborhood. The first-degree murder charge was filed Tuesday.