A 23-year-old former Moorpark College honors student charged with fatally stabbing his roommate pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Ventura County Municipal Court.
Michael Baity has been charged with one count of murder in connection with the death of 54-year-old Fernando Fierro, who was stabbed May 16 in a Simi Valley house where the two men rented rooms.
Authorities said the motive for the attack is unclear, but Baity's attorney said Wednesday that his client suffers from mental problems.
Deputy Public Defender Todd Howeth said Baity was a standout high school basketball and football player and an honors student after enrolling at Moorpark College.
But he said that Baity suddenly began suffering from mental deficiencies shortly before his 20th birthday.
"As a child, he did well in school and really had no problems," Howeth said. "But like many cases, he began experiencing the onset of mental illness at age 19."
Baity was arrested two days after the stabbing while wandering around an unincorporated area of Piru, naked and badly scratched. His preliminary hearing was set for Aug. 1.