A man accused of killing his stepmother in Mexico last month made an appearance in a Chula Vista courtroom Monday for unrelated charges.
Aaron Juarez, 20, is suspected by authorities in Tijuana of shooting his stepmother and burying her body in the backyard of her home.
On Monday, he pleaded not guilty to charges of violation probation and heroin possession in San Diego County.
"He brought a small amount of heroin into a jail setting," said San Diego Deputy District Attorney Robert Eacret.
Juarez is currently being held in jail on no bail.
"He is a known gang member in San Diego County," added Eacret.
Juarez is facing murder charges in Tijuana but not in the United States for the death of Fernanda Gonzalez, 32.
Gonzalez grew up in Tijuana and San Diego. She was found buried in her backyard in February by her sister and father after the family received tips on social media regarding her whereabouts.
The Medical Examiner's Office said she died from a gunshot wound to the head.
The Gonzalez family suspected Juarez in the killing. Fernanda Gonzalez had known him since he was four years old. Juarez had been living with Fernanda Gonzalez and her husband at her Tijuana home for the past two months -- the same home where her body was discovered
San Diego County court documents show Juarez has a criminal history. He was charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon and resisting an officer for an incident in November 2018. He was also charged with transportation and sale of marijuana.
Jesus Rodolfo Cruz, an attorney for the Gonzalez family, told Telemundo 20 that Juarez had allegedly been using drugs and firearms while living with Gonzalez, and socializing with the wrong crowd.
Fernanda Gonzalez was first reported missing one month ago by Erika Gonzalez, who is from San Diego's South Bay. Erika Gonzalez said she knew something was wrong when she could not get in contact with her sister.
Aaron Juarez is suspected in the killing of his stepmother, Fernanda Gonzalez. Gonzalez was found buried in the backyard of her own home in Tijuana, Mexico.
"We were calling her phone and she didn't answer,” Erika Gonzalez said.
She said she lost contact with her sister on Feb. 3 and reported the disappearance two days later.
That same day, Fernanda Gonzalez's husband showed up at UC San Diego Medical Center with an unexplained gunshot wound. He is a U.S. citizen who works in San Diego.
According to the San Diego Police Department, gunshot wound victims are generally reported by the hospital to law enforcement and a report is taken by police. However, SDPD told NBC 7 by phone Monday no police report was taken.
Officers clarified that if the gunshot wound happened in Mexico, a report might not be taken by law enforcement in the United States because no investigation would take place.
NBC 7 also reached out to the California Highway Patrol Monday. They did not take a report on the unexplained gunshot wounds.
Aaron's father was in court in Chula Vista Monday and confirmed he was shot but would not elaborate.
Fernanda Gonzalez grew up in San Diego and lived with her husband in Tijuana.
After three weeks of no leads from investigators, Erika Gonzalez took to social media to offer a reward for information leading to her discovery. The family is still offering a reward of 10,000 Mexican pesos for information that leads to Fernanda Gonzalez's Jeep Cherokee.
"We received calls from different people saying she was in the back of her house,” Erika said.The tips indicated Fernanda was dead and that she was buried in the back yard of her Tijuana home. Some of the tips even said who killed her.
The tips indicated Fernanda Gonzalez was dead and that she was buried in the backyard of her Tijuana home. Some of the tips even said who killed her.
The police did not search the property right away, so the family conducted a search of their own and found Fernanda Gonzalez's body buried right where tipsters said to look.
"It was hard but it was harder for my dad,” Erika Gonzalez said. “He started yelling."