A man accused of killing a 92-year-old woman found in her National City apartment will be eligible to face the death penalty if convicted, according to court officials.
Peter Thao, 26, was charged with first degree murder with a special circumstance in the death of Maria Rivera, 92. He pleaded not guilty through an attorney.
A spokesman from the District Attorney's office said the charge, first degree murder with a special circumstance of committing a murder in the commission of a qualifying felony - in this case, residential burglary - makes him eligible for either life without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.
National City Police said they found Rivera in her D Street apartment on Oct. 22, 2016.
When officers began investigating, they determined the apartment had been burglarized prior to Rivera's death.
Thao was arrested and charged in her death after an investigation.
Police declined to comment on what evidence linked Thao to the crime but said they found the evidence inside his home. They also confiscated his car.
Authorities do not believe there are any outstanding suspects, but the investigation is ongoing.
The homicide is believed to be random.
Thao is expected to next appear in court on January 12, 2017.