Christian Birdsall, 16, and Cody Nicosia, 18, plead not guilty Friday to charges that they strangled Barbara Latiolas during a burglary and later set fire to her Castro Valley home to destroy the evidence.
The accused pair appeared at the Hayward Hall of Justice where the case, in which they are charged with murder under special circumstances, will be heard
The body of the 58-year-old Latiolais was found at 12:15 a.m. on Oct. 18 after firefighters responded to a blaze at her house at 2431 San Carlos Avenue.
Alameda Country sheriffs who investigated the murder/arson described the crime as "the kind of case that fears and nightmares are made of."
Within 48-hours they had tracked the accused teens through a Volvo that they allegedly stole outside the house and later abandoned.
At the time that their arrests were announced, detectives said the teens had "cooperated" -- they avoided the term confession -- and described how the pair had come to steal guns belonging to Latiolais's longtime partner, 60-year-old retired San Francisco fireman Mike Rice.
They knew the guns were in the house because Birdsall had a distant connection to Rice and had done yard work at the house.
Birdsall also knew that Rice was out of town, police said.
According to the arresting officers, on the day of the killing the pair waited outside the house for Latiolais to leave. When she didn't they changed their plan: Birdsall knocked on the door and offered to do some yardwork and, when Latiolais opened the door, he let Nicosia in and together they strangled the victim, police say.
Detectives say the two young men then went out to eat at a local restaurant, drove around for a while, and then returned to the house before midnight where they soaked the victim's body in gasoline and set it aflame.
Outside the Hayward Hall of Justice Friday, defense attorney Albert Wax told a Bay Area News Group reporter that his client, Cody Nicosia, was feeling remorseful.
The accused pair are scheduled to return to court April 19 for a pretrial hearing.
Read more on the case:
- Detectives on the hunt after discovery of the body.
- Mike Rice remembers his partner.
- Police announce the arrest of the suspects.
- Shocking details of the crime.