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Signal Hill teenager pleads not guilty in fatal stabbing of vacationing Argentine man

A Signal Hill teenager pleaded not guilty Tuesday to fatally stabbing an Argentine man who had been vacationing in California and whom prosecutors said tried to detain the youth after he violated a domestic violence restraining order.

Edson Eduardo Rufino, 19, faces one felony count of murder, two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one misdemeanor count each for contempt of court and resisting arrest, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said.

Prosecutors said that Rufino violated a restraining order when he visited his girlfriend on April 2 at her mother’s home in Long Beach. After the mother called the police, prosecutors said that Rufino threatened his girlfriend’s brother and a visitor at the home with a knife.

Rufino fled to another home nearby, and 31-year-old Leandro Maza, who prosecutors said had been staying at the same home where the incident began, allegedly tried to detain him. Prosecutors said that Rufino then pushed his way out of the home and fatally stabbed Maza, who died from his injuries at a local hospital.

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Police have reported that after the incident at the first home, Maza armed himself with a metal pole and chased Rufino.

Argentine media have identified Maza as a mechanic who resided in Mar del Plata. He traveled to the United States for vacation and had recently gotten engaged, according to the Argentine newspaper La Nacion. His family and friends have been organizing a fundraiser to bring his body back home.

“My brother didn’t do anything, he only crossed paths with the person who assassinated him by stabbing him in the heart,” his sister told La Nacion.

Rufino’s bail has been set at $2 million, and he is scheduled to return to court May 12. If convicted as charged, he faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison. The case remains under investigation by the Long Beach Police Department.


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