A San Diego man accused of stabbing and killing a pregnant woman and dumping her body in an Encanto canyon pleaded not guilty to murder charges in court Thursday.
According to investigators, the suspect – Napoleon Joel Lange, 23 – and the victim, Lavaughn Rawshanda Nicole Williams, 29, were “acquainted,” though the status of their relationship remains unclear.
Lange's mother, who said she and her son knew the victim well, claims Napoleon could not have killed her.
"My friend is dead and my son's the one being accused of her murder," Sharonna Hutchins said. "So I wish they would just go and find the right person and let my son go because he didn't do it."
Williams’ body was discovered on the afternoon of Jan. 13 about 10 to 12 feet down a ravine in a residential area near South 66th Street and Skyline Drive. The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) said a father and daughter, out walking their dog, spotted the body and called the police.
SDPD Lt. Todd Griffin said officers were working at a recruiting event at the nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park.
Williams’ body was in a precarious position – on the slope of the ravine – so the investigation into her death was, at first, complicated. Unable to reach her, the officers could not immediately figure out what had happened to the woman.
There was a "significant amount of blood" covering the woman's body, Griffin said.
Homicide detectives took over the investigation. Once the San Diego County Medical Examiner arrived, officials were able to recover Williams’ body and more closely examine her.
Griffin said investigators found she had been stabbed in the torso and had died from those wounds. She may have been in the ravine for several days before being discovered, detectives said.
The SDPD said Lange, who is on probation for a felony burglary conviction, was arrested Monday in connection with Williams’ killing.
He’s being held without bail at San Diego Central Jail on several counts, including first-degree murder and murder of a human fetus.
The investigation into the homicide is ongoing. Anyone with information on this case can call the SDPD’s Homicide Unit at (619) 531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.