Four men accused of a violent home invasion robbery in La Jolla last week pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.
Prosecutors call it a brutal crime that was planned in advance.
Thomas Walter Clark, 41, Aaron Jacob Espinoza, 23, Hector Guerra, 30, and Miguel Ocegueda, 23, all face charges in connection to the case. On Wednesday, Judge Richard Whitney ordered the men held on $1 million bail after they entered their pleas.
One of the victims was badly injured during the incident, and a second one was emotionally scarred.
"The individual handed [the property's caretaker] the flower with his left hand and hit her in the face with his right hand," Deputy District Attorney C.J. Mody told the court.
Mody said the attacker then used zip ties to bind the 50-year-old.
The four defendants are from San Bernardino, but the evidence appears to show that they knew what they were looking for when they robbed a La Jolla mansion last Friday night. After getting into the house, the suspects immediately went to the second floor, where the homeowner, socialite and well-known cookbook author Jeanne Jones, was resting.
One of the men allegedly held a gun to Jones' head and ordered her to open the family's safe. The suspects are accused of scooping up the valuables and running, but a UPS driver who was at the door foiled the robbery, according to investigators. The good Samaritan ran to his truck, called 911, then followed the suspects until police took over the chase.
The accused men were arrested on state Route 52, near Regents Road, where police recovered the stolen jewelry.
One of the four defendants has a prior record and was wanted for a parole violation.
The suspects are due back in court on Nov. 24. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.