A Poway man accused of raping and murdering a woman in Carlsbad in 1987 has pleaded not guilty to the killing which, until his arrest last month, had been a local case gone cold.
James Charles Kingery, 54, was charged with two counts: murder and rape by threat. He pleaded not guilty to both at his arraignment Tuesday, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office confirmed.
The charges are linked to the decades-old slaying of Julia Hernandez-Santiago, 26. Advancements in DNA technology led investigators to Kingery as the murder suspect, the Carlsbad Police Department said on July 24.
On Oct. 10, 1987, Hernandez-Santiago was found strangled to death on an ivy-covered embankment along Alga Road, near what is now the Omni La Costa Resort golf course.
Investigators suspected Hernandez-Santiago was sexually assaulted before she was killed by what the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office ruled was strangulation.
But, despite having several pieces of key evidence, Carlsbad police could not pinpoint a suspect.
In the next 33 years following Hernandez-Santiago's death, investigators continued to follow new leads. But, without a clear suspect, her murder case grew cold.
San Diego's Unsolved Cold Cases
A break in the case came in March 2020, when Kingery was arrested in Poway for drug and weapon violations. Because of the severity of the charges, Kingery submitted a DNA sample.
Two months later, the San Diego County Sheriff's Crime Lab got a hit: Kingery's DNA matched DNA samples found at the 1987 crime scene.
The match gave new life to the Carlsbad Police Department's investigation into Hernandez-Santiago's killing. With the new evidence at their disposal, detectives cross-checked their case information and presented it to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.
Kingery was booked into San Diego Central Jail on July 22, held without bail.
The DA's office said his next appearance in court is set for Sept. 4.
If convicted, Kingery faces a sentence of 25 years to life for the murder charge and a sentence of 3 to 8 years for rape by threat.
The criminal complaint filed against Kingery and obtained by NBC 7 said he raped Hernandez-Santiago by “threatening to retaliate in the future against said victim and another person” and that the threat was a “reasonable possibility.”
No further details were released.