Arraignment in killing postponed

The man accused of slaying a woman whose body was found in Newport Beach last week did not enter a plea Tuesday when he briefly appeared in court.

Jaime Prieto Rocha, of Santa Ana, is charged with murdering Nancy Hammour, 28, of Santa Ana, whose body was found under a bridge near East Coast Highway and Bayside Drive on Labor Day morning.

Newport police detectives arrested Rocha, 40, at 7:40 p.m. Friday after an autopsy determined that Hammour died of a gunshot wound, according to a news release.

In court Tuesday, Rocha gave brief answers to procedural questions before Orange County Superior Court Judge Craig Robison agreed to delay his arraignment until Sept. 27 at the request of Rocha's public defender.

Until then, Rocha, a forklift operator, will be held at Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana unless he posts bail, which was set at $1 million.

Police and the district attorney have released little information about the case.

"In the interest of maintaining the integrity of our ongoing investigation, no other information is releasable at this time," Newport police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella said in an email Monday.

Since 1995, Rocha has pleaded guilty to various charges, including possession of a controlled substance, receiving stolen property, second-degree burglary and assault with a deadly weapon or force, according to Orange County Superior Court records.

With prosecutors' consent Tuesday, the judge dismissed some traffic charges still pending against Rocha that could become inconsequential in light of the murder allegation.

"He's going to be, I imagine, in custody for a while," Robison said.

Police and prosecutors have not revealed what relationship, if any, existed between Hammour and Rocha.

Hammour pleaded guilty in 2008 to misdemeanor prostitution and drunk-driving charges, according to court documents. In January, she pleaded guilty to a felony charge of possession of a controlled substance. Her probation was revoked in July.

Hammour's sister, Yara Morales, told the Los Angeles Times that Hammour was attempting to get custody of her infant son. She also has an older son who lives with a relative.

"She was having a difficult time battling drugs," Morales told The Times. "I have no idea what could've happened, but I know she last spoke to her boyfriend at 1:30 a.m. [on Labor Day], telling him she wanted to go out, and he told her to please not to."

Donations for Hammour's memorial service are being accepted at Fairhaven Memorial Park, 1702 E. Fairhaven Ave., Santa Ana. Donors are asked to call (714) 633-1442, using the contract number A130879. Online donations are also accepted through

—Los Angeles Times reporter Adolfo Flores contributed to this report.

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